Lu Guang's The Price of Neglect

Ng Yi-Sheng

June 17, 2015

I didn't get to mingle much at  the launch reception last night. Y'see, I was attending the Chinese photojournalist Lu Guang's guided tour of his exhibition,  The Price of Neglect:

And I don't know if you've heard of Lu Guang before, but he is one bad-ass motherlover. He's spent his life travelling across China using his camera to document the humanitarian crises caused by the rise of capitalism. For instance, the image above is from an AIDS Village in Henan - a village where people were so poor that everyone needed to sell their blood banks in order to afford to pay school fees for their children, and the bad hygiene at the blood banks ended up infecting over half of the adult population with HIV...

He found out about it when three girls went to the city pleading for medication. He travelled to Henan and asked to meet the victims, was consistently denied, until he started paying for orphans to be educated, then they let him in, and he stayed in touch with them for three years, documenting their lives, paying for their medication, reassuring them that the government would soon come and help them.

That image above is a woman being cradled by her husband. She died the next day of AIDS. Her husband died later. And their daughter. 

You can see the images at the World Press Photo Site. He won an international prize for the photos in 2003, which finally made the government sit up and go down to the village and give everyone money and medication. They also deleted all his Chinese Internet accounts. He can live with that.

These days he's mostly documenting pollution - factories causing cancer outbreaks, stip-mining that destroys grasslands. (He was very happy to be shown at DECK, which is made up recylced containers, and Keng Sen made sure all the cups and plates at the buffet were biodegradable.)

That image above is a village in Guangzhou where loads of migrant workers have settled. There aren't adequate rubbish disposal facilities, so folks just hose out their mess into the river, and then they use that same river to wash their clothes and their vegetables...

He actually went down and asked that woman why she was using polluted water for her laundry. She said clean water cost too much. She could give the clothes a rinse in it, but that was all she could afford.

Surprisngly, he praised Xi Jinping's administration - said he's now throwing leaders of polluting companies in jail and fining them millions of RMB, which is unprecedented. This just makes the businesses more careful, though - they pump their sludge into rivers via deeper pipes, and they're much more intent on beating up any nosy photographers they see around their outlets.

So things have become a lot more dangerous for Lu Guang. He fractured his shoulder recently making a getaway.

He's OK with international media taking his photo, but not Chinese media. He wants to remain semi-incognito. But I'm taking no chances: just side views for all of you.

So here's an image of his audience instead:

If you want to find out more, attend his talk this Saturday, 20 June, at 5pm at the DECK. 

He'll be talking about all the stuff he can't show in exhibition!

  • 2015