Hidden Light Hainan

Since my first journey in China in the mid 1990s, at each of my subsequent visit, I have noticed the rapid societal, economic and cultural changes. Such changes were obvious when I started seeing worldwide renowned brands everywhere such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Sony Cinema, pointing out the growing adoption in China of the consumerism oriented behaviors prevalent in all the other metropolitan cities in the World. My seven-day stay in Hong Shui village brought me back to my old memory of China before the economic boom. The life style and houses upholds tradition and value. Hand woven fabric, hand made crafts, and Lee women face tattoos were evidence of Lee people trying to upheld their cultural values and traditions.

This trip was a visual investigation of the fast disappearing Lee people’s culture, crafts, traditional adobe houses, and their way of living in a rural area in Hainan, China. The collaborative effort of photographers began with conversing with the locals to understand their cultural, economic, educational, and social conditions. The conversation informed and inspired the visual direction of the project at Hong Shui village. While the physical evidence of the traditions such as adobe houses and hand made crafts may disappear with the modernization of China, the traditions of Lee people minority had to be preserved through some forms of visual references. Already during our journey, the effects of China`s modernization were considerable and clearly evidenced by the replacement of most of adobe houses by more modern ones and traditional outfits by jeans and sneakers.

As a photographer, I wanted to capture the hidden tradition that only emerged out of conversation that was drawn from memories of the locals. I attempt to capture the romantic version of the living experience of Lee people through manipulation of digital imaging. I tried to capture daily lives of youngsters and their living environments. I chose to shoot with infrared digital camera that seems to embody my interpretation and reaction to Lee people and their culture.