Of the photo essays that were in the All Roads Festival I chose Changes During 20 Years in the Old Miao Village – Basha, taken by Kuang Huimin. In this essay Huimin shows how the changing of time affects the people living in Basha, and what they’re doing to adapt as well as keep their traditional roots. In each photo Huimin shows a part of the Basha culture, and as he progresses towards the end of the photo essay he begins to show how new technologies are changing the people in the remote Chinese mountain town. All the photos were taken in black and white, which accentuates the fact that the people in the village are very traditional. One of Huimin’s most notable photographic techniques is his usage of the rule of thirds. Take for example his photos Escalating Modern Influences, Going to the Mountain and Bamboo Flute Playing. In these three pictures Huimin places each important figure off towards one side, having them more in focus than the rest of the frame, while not necessarily blurring everything else. By doing this Huimin creates a central figure for each photograph, the boy in the traditional clothes in one, the woman with the wood in the other, and the old man with the bamboo flute in the last one.
Huimin’s photography is very emotional, he draws upon the expressions in the image to elicit a feeling out of the viewer. I think no other photo in his essay does this as well as Going to the Mountain. The expression on the woman’s face is that of struggle, but determination as well. When I viewed this photo I realized how hard that life is for people in this small community, but how hard they work to make sure it is as comfortable as possible. The picture with the bulldozer shows that the people of the town do not allow others to come into the community and change it, that they have a need to do it themselves. Every photo taken of the village not only shows that they are a very deeply rooted cultural group, but that they also don’t like modern influences taking apart what they know that easily. This photo essay spans 20 years and there’s only one picture of a computer, in 2009. From this you can tell that the people resisted change for a very long time, and it is sad to think that as time goes on they will continue to change to fit modern norms, and once they begin to change then they will change easier and lose sight of their culture.
I think Huimin’s essay was the most telling of the three that won in the competition. Not only did it tell a story but it also conveyed immense amounts of emotion in so few photos. From seeing it I felt like I was watching a slide-by-slide representation of the death of tradition and the globalization of the world, something that I know will happen but am saddened by. To see such a vibrant culture, and a beautiful little mountain village, and to know that it will someday be apartment buildings and Starbucks is something that I find to be very depressing, as someone who loves to travel and get in touch with other peoples cultures.