Book: China 1984

Workers attending meeting at Sugar Cane factory.  Sanya City.

Workers attending meeting at Sugar Cane factory. Sanya City.

CHINA 1984 ALEXANDER VERTIKOFF In 1984 and 1985, when some of these locations were not yet open to most foreigners, I spent many months photographing the daily ebb and flow of life in Guangzhou, Beijing, Wuhan, Guilin, Hainan Island and other places in the People’s Republic of China. My images are not a comprehensive documentation of life in the PRC, but an intimate and personal portrait of newfound friends and intriguing sights, during a period of innocence just before a major convergence of cultures. They are images of China on the edge of modernization. Many of these images were part of the first traveling exhibits of their kind by a foreign artist in the People’s Republic of China. Shown in Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Shanghai in 1985 and 1986, they provided a unique opportunity for me to share my art with local artists and citizens; and for them to share their reactions to how a foreign artist sees their world. Those images are now part of the permanent collections of the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Art and the Wuhan Institute of Fine Art. To create the original color negatives, I used a film known for its substantial amount of visible grain, which I could manipulate in a pointillistic manner, to create images in an evocative pictorial way, as opposed to straight-ahead documentary photographs. Those negatives lay in storage for 30 years after the traveling exhibits, until the digital technology required to convert the original negatives into finished pictures of proper quality became available. The changes that occurred in China after 1984 were not predictable. What I witnessed before those changes was an innocent time of curiosity and openness, which might be why these images feel so authentic, honest, and real. The growing interest in life in the People’s Republic of China during that historically important period has prompted the production of this book. - Alexander Vertikoff, 2017

Main crossroads.  Guangzhou.
Beijing 11/21/1984
"End of the World" Near Sanya City, Hainan Island
Beijing billboard street scene.
Solitary Rider, Beijing
School Boy.  Sanya City, Hainan Island.
On the way to Hainan Island.  South China Sea.
Hospital Staff near Sanya City, Hainan Island.
Sanya City, Hainan Island
Street scene with fade faces.  Sanya City, Hainan Island.
Li say hi!  Sanya City, Hainan Island
Li sings "Red River Valley".  Sanya City, Hainan Island.
Leaders meeting Sugar Cane factory.  Sanya City, Hainan Island.
Sugar Cane factory leader.  Sanya City, Hainan Island
Workers attending meeting at Sugar Cane factory.  Sanya City.
Blue workers.  Sugar Cane factory near Sanya City, Hainan Island.
"End of the World, Beginning of the Sea".  Near Sanya City, Hainan Island
Street scene, Guangzhou.
Kids playing in back street.  Guangzhou
Cannot not shoot this.  Gungzhou.
Woman worker, back street factory.  Guangzhou.
New construction.  Guangzhou.
The Pearl River.  Guangzhou.
Guangzhou street scene.
Street restaurant scene.  Guangzhou.
Cuved back street brick wall.  Guangzhou.
Friendly appraisal.  Guangzhou.
Muslim cemetery.  Guangzhou
Wuhan ladies.
Artist gathering.  Wuhan.
Sculpture near Zhongshan University.  Guangzhou
Zhonghsan University Scene.  Guangzhou.