In China: When It All Began
The first international volume–and the very first English release–on Xiao Quan, one of the most acclaimed contemporary photographers in China.
Xiao Quan shot to fame with his large-scale photo album Our Generation. The album, published in 1996 in China, features almost all of the famous figures in literature and fine art during the 1980s and 1990s, including Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Jiang Wen, He Xuntian, Tan Dun, Bei Dao, Wang Anyi, Shi Tiesheng, Chen Cun, and Cui Jian, among others. In order to make this picture album, Xiao Quan traveled around China, and it took him nearly ten years to complete it. This book returns to that project to present it to a wider audience.
A personal and fascinating testimony about China in the late 80s and early 90s, which captures the drastic social change of the first decade of the country’s economic reform.
Through a careful selection of shots stolen from the daily life of the population and portraits of intellectuals and artists throughout the emerging era, this book aims to narrate the generation of Xiao Quan in an exhaustive way, giving us a new perspective on culture and society.
“At the beginning, the camera was just a tool I used to take pictures of the friends around me and all the new things we saw arriving after the Opening-up… Gradually, I began to feel a sense of responsibility that was transformed into the mission of recording what was happening, as if I knew it was the start of a new era” (X.Q.)
Xiao Quan, born in 1959 in Chengdu, in the Chinese region of Sichuan, is one of the most popular photographers in his country, and acknowledged by scholars and critics to be the greatest Chinese portraitist.
From the 1980s, Xiao Quan became an attentive witness to the sweeping changes that affected China after it opened up to the world and with the outset of the economic reform championed by Deng Xiaoping.
In China, When It All Began is the first illustrated volume distributed worldwide dedicated to the intense reportage conducted by the photographer between 1986 and 1996 aimed at describing intellectuals, artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians and other leading figures in his day, and offering us, through their gazes, a new perspective on the evolution of Chinese society.
This is the genesis of the volume, from which the works on display were taken: ten emblematic images that reveal the power of Xiao Quan’s eye and his skill at telling a story in just a single shot. Among other things, we find a tribute to his master, the “human” traces of change embodied by the first Western tourists, alongside iconographic and architectural traces – and we see the new association with centuries-old traditions that continue to exist today. Standing out among all of them are the iconic faces of the intellectuals who have written the recent history of China.
A journey through memory, a visual tribute to the golden age of China and its people – one that cannot be forgotten.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Rizzoli (September 3, 2019)
Size: 8.4 x 1 x 11.6 inches
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Xiao Quan is widely considered the finest Chinese portrait photographer alive. Lü Peng is a Chinese curator, critic, and art historian.