A series of photographs by French photographer Benoit Cezard, imagining what China may be like four decades down the road with Westerns filling the roles commonly seen among the poorer Chinese migrant workers today, has been making the rounds.
From Global Times: Cezard, who came to China in October 2006, is a French teacher at the Alliance Francaise in Wuhan. By now he can hold simple conversations in Chinese. He met his Chinese wife, Liu Xuewei, in 2006, who is now studying for a PhD in Intercultural Communication in Wuhan University, and they married three years later. She told the Global Times that their shared love of art drew them together.
During his travels around China with his cameras, Cezard also fell in love with the country and its people. While living in Dulong village, a poor and remote village in Yunnan Province, and spending three weeks in Pengjiazhai, a mountainous village in Hubei, he tried to record the ordinary people’s real lives with his cameras.
Inspired by two Chinese photographers Li Yu and Liu Bo, who have gained some popularity by reenacting scenes taken from local newspaper stories, Cezard started to try surrealist pictures and the idea of blending foreigners and migrant workers occurred to him.
Designing the sets, finding models, and purchasing costumes and props took a year, and, with his wife’s help, cost him about 400 to 800 yuan a photo.
“Thanks to the almighty Taobao, I could find all the props. This is also one point why the country is so attractive to me,” he said. Some large objects like tricycles, or mamu in the Wuhan dialect, he had to rent. The models are friends and colleagues in Wuhan. They all acted for free.
What do you think? Any potential truth to the photographs? Myself, it’s hard to imagine that China will reach a point in my lifetime whereby it has so few low-wage workers that it will have to start importing them (like the United States, or, really, pretty much most Western nations). But are we perhaps getting a scent of this change now with all the laowai crackdowns, tighter visa regulations, and more comprehensive taxing of foreign workers?
There’s still a gazillion people in China’s rural areas just waiting for their turn at middle-classdom, could 40 years be long enough to realize that change?