Author Archives: tonglam

The Last Picture Show

History was made (and buried) here. Without this secret uranium mine, China would not be able to develope its first atomic and hydrogen bombs in the 1960s. Unsurprisingly, hundreds of workers sacrificed their lives due to industrial accidents and radioactive illness over the decades. Yet, their stories were little known to the outside world. When I finally visited the site after months of delay and procrastination, construction workers were busy sealing off the movie theater of this former indusrial town. “My memory is being buried here today,” said a middle-aged woman holding some old tickets that she had just retrived from the ground. Her parents were military personnel sent to work at this Cold War facility in the late 1950s. Hearing all the stories, I too felt incredibly sad but also incredibly lucky. I would not be able to photograph this place at all had I arrived even just a few hours later. At the same time, had I visit the site just a day earlier, I probably would not be able to meet so many former personnel and collect their stories.  Once upon a time, the site was about racing to make history. Now, for me at least, it was about racing to save history.

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The Nature of Xiongan

My encounter with “nature” in a recent visit to the Xiongan New District, which has been slated to become China’s latest hightech zone.

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Homecoming

Where I feel home… in Arizona.

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The Gods of Biotech

In Taiwan, the flourishing of community temples and gods since the 1980s has been inseparable from the island’s rapid economic growth and political transformation. Today, such diverse religious cultures continue to play a crucial role for Taiwanese to negotiate their ever-evolving landscapes of cultural anxieties, geopolitical tension, and economic precarity. Seen here is a temporary altar with mechanicalized gods in an annual temple fair next to a new biotech park in Taipei’s Nangang District.

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Some random street shots

It is often said that the keys to understanding the future (and the past) are all around us. Here are some random shots that I made when I was doing photographic work in Zhangjiakou recently. These street scenes remind me of China a few decades ago. Yet, even in these small places, there are telling signs about China’s past, present, and future.

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The Peasant Artist (農民藝術家)

Mr. 孙柏山 was once a migrant worker because he hoped to earn enough money to fulfill his dream of going to art school. Years later, he came back to this poor village in Hebei province after earning only two yuan (25 cents). Nevertheless, along the way, he managed to acquire a few auction catalogues featuring Song Dynasty (960-1279) paintings. And that was how his painting career began. Drawing inspirations from those images, he became a prolific painter in the Song dynasty style, no less. This is Mr. Sun’s bedroom, kitchen, and studio.

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世界の終り…

When you are lost in the desert, it is like entering Haruki Murakami’s hard-boiled wonderland. Or maybe this is the end of the world?

Photo Credit: AC

 

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A glimpse of the future?

These surreal scenes of the flooded Toronto Islands are providing a glimpse of what the future may look like.

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Ready to be great again!

In the realm of alternative facts, things are ready to be great again.

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Speculative Histories

In a photo-essay that seeks to bring “future-oriented fictions and urban-centred theories of China and India” together, historian Kavita Philip writes about my photos, along with those by Dipti Desai. “How might we think dialogically about the material geographies of China and India, while not overplaying the familiar comparative analytics of borders and populations, communism and democracy, economic and cultural difference? How might we think in the longue durée about Asian urban and rural change without being overly formalist about theories of development?” >>> READ MORE >>>

China India cover

Science of Giants: China and India in the Twentieth Century (Volume 1, 2016)

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