What I am reading this week

Yes, two blog post hugs from me in one day. Hopefully to make up for my absence for the last 2 weeks. Enjoy your weekend.

The first photo captivated me and by the end of the short photo essay in NYT Lens, I fell in love. They were like paintings colored by innocence and whimsical charm that fairy tales are made of. Or cartoon postcards that I’d buy as a child after school with my pocket money. If there was a way to romanticise the coldest of winters in Siberia, I believe photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva has done it.

My heart aches whenever I read or hear stories of how young children in China and Russia are packed off to sport schools in the slim hope that they will be the next Olympic champion, all because parents could not afford to support them. When thwarted by injury, they are often disposed and disregarded. Chinese photographer Liu Tao captures a gymnastic school in Fujian province that trains children as young as 2 years old, their soft, vulnerable bones moulded like cheap rubber.

I’ve always been a fan of dystopia novels, my favorite being George Orwell’s 1984. I never though I’d see a good dystopia novel on China and am looking forward to picking up the English translation of “The Fat Years” by Hong Kong author Chan Koonchung. Former NYT journalist and photographer Howard French, whom we’ve interviewed before on his beautiful Shanghai work, does a very interesting review of the book which also happens to be banned in Mainland China.

A highly amusing tale of how the talented Beijing-based Jonah Kessel became a “world famous” photographer chosen to shoot the UNESCO heritage site in Sichuan’s Jiuzhaigou National Park. All because low-level government officials wanted a group of Caucasian-looking photographers. Not at all unusual in China where local companies would “rent a white guy” to show a more “international” face to their business.

Errol Morris: “Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words. But a picture unaccompanied by words may not mean anything at all. Do pictures provide evidence? And if so, evidence of what? And, of course, the underlying question: do they tell the truth?

Two accounts of how the former Beijing courtyard home of Liang Sicheng, the author of modern Chinese architecture, was quietly razed to the ground by a government-affiliate real estate company over Chinese New Year. This is in spite of the house being assigned a protected “immovable cultural relic” status by the government. The cruel irony is that the former occupants Liang and his wife had been great champions of preservation of Chinese architectural cultural landmarks.

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