In 1979, an exhibition of works by American photographer Lewis Hine in Jinan had a determining impact on the career and life of Zeng Yi, at the time a young Chinese photographer and curator. Zeng Yi’s exposure to Hine’s photographs was enlightening. He realized photography’s ability and importance to document social reality and confront the responsibilities and obligations owed to society. Since the 1980s, Zeng Yi has been drawing attention to the changes in the living conditions of China’s vast rural areas. He shot tens of thousands of images all over Qilu – Shandong Province, the hometown of Confucius. He also focused on villages of ethnic minorities in Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and other places in China, especially Daliang Mountain, the largest inhabited area of Yi nationality, where he recorded the changes in the lives of farmers and herdsmen.
The natural conditions in the Daliang Mountains are very complex, where the Yi people lead a closed lifestyle for thousands of years. It was not until the 1950s that the Yi nationality advanced from a slave society to a modern society. With the increasing efforts of the Chinese government to gradually eliminate poverty, the life of the Yi people in Daliang Mountain, similar to those of farmers in other regions of China, has undergone tremendous changes. In many of the images, the scenes gradually fade away, becoming a memory of the old days.
Zeng Yi is a world-renowned master photographer, curator and social activist living in China, a recipient of the highest honor and achievement recognition from the State Council of China.
In collaboration with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the State of Israel