Photographers' Blog

Breaking into confinement

By Aly Song

After finding out that I was going to do a story on “Zuo Yue Zi,” or “confinement period” in Mandarin, I realized that although I’m a Chinese man, I knew very little about this tradition. So I asked around and found out how unusual “Zuo Yue Zi” was.

I was told that in general Chinese women lie in bed for the first month after they give birth. Usually the mother-in-law or a skilled elderly woman takes care of the mothers and helps them throughout the month. During this period, the new mothers shall not take a bath, wash their hair and some are not even allowed to brush their teeth. (It is believed that when new mothers go through physical changes after giving birth, their teeth may loosen.) In the past this must have sounded very scary, however, things are different nowadays. This brings us to the modernized luxury “Zuo Yue Zi” center – CareBay.

Walking into the lobby felt like stepping into a five-star hotel. All the employees were in clean and neat clothes; always ready to provide service to clients. The center is able to hold more than 30 new mothers, each living in individual rooms. The new mothers don’t need to do anything here, and they barely even leave their rooms. There are about 120 employees at CareBay including maternity care experts, health consultants, beauticians and nutritionists who look after the new mothers as well as their babies. The cost for a one-month service is between 79,800 yuan ($12,600) and 380,000 yuan ($60,000). This expense covers food, accommodation, slimming exercises and yoga lessons for the mother and nursing services for the child. At CareBay, new mothers can take showers and do some limited exercises three weeks after giving birth. The new babies take sun baths and do swimming exercises on a daily basis, which must be pretty relaxing.

The core value at CareBay maternity center is their diet therapy. A huge team of well-trained doctors and chefs combine traditional Chinese herbal medicines with food to create several unique diet therapy sets. And of course, all these recipes are kept as business secrets.

My biggest difficulty covering this story was that the mothers hated to be photographed. According to the employees, the reasons were three-fold:

China’s deserted fake Disneyland

By David Gray

Along the road to one of China’s most famous tourist landmarks – the Great Wall of China – sits what could potentially have been another such tourist destination, but now stands as an example of modern-day China and the problems facing it.

Situated on an area of around 100 acres, and 45 minutes drive from the center of Beijing, are the ruins of ‘Wonderland’. Construction stopped more than a decade ago, with developers promoting it as ‘the largest amusement park in Asia’. Funds were withdrawn due to disagreements over property prices with the local government and farmers. So what is left are the skeletal remains of a palace, a castle, and the steel beams of what could have been an indoor playground in the middle of a corn field.

Pulling off the expressway and into the car park, I expected to be stopped by the usual confrontational security guards. But there was absolutely no one to be seen. I walked through one of the few entrances not boarded up, and instantly started coughing. In front of me were large empty rooms and discarded furniture, all covered in a thick layer of dust, along with an eerie silence that gave the place a haunted feeling – an emotion not normally associated with a children’s playground.

Stepping into the endless abyss

By Jason Lee

According to official reports, there will be 780,000 HIV-positive people in China by the end of 2011. As drug injection is one of the main causes of AIDS infections, the Chinese government has to face the situation and come up with appropriate solutions to help those estimated 1.8 million drug users in China.

Yunnan, a province located in southwest China at the border of the Golden Triangle, is a hot zone for AIDS infections. It took great effort to apply to the Yunnan province judicial and public security offices to receive permission allowing me to photograph a compulsory drug rehabilitation center and a drug addicts recovery community in provincial capital Kunming.

Most people think that drug addicts are a group of people who are full of lies. This shows how drugs can change a person’s humanity. I have heard so many painful stories from drug addicts. What we need urgently is a good solution to help them get back to normal lives. Because of China’s large population, I believe it is the government’s duty to help. After I finished transmitting my pictures from Yunnan, a picture editor commented “They seem to be pretty good over there.” I replied, “Yes, and I think if ever my friend becomes addicted to drugs, I will personally suggest that he goes there.”

One step at a time

By Carlos Barria

When I was a kid in the south of Argentina, we used to say that if you dig a very deep hole to the other side of the earth, you will end up in China. In my case, China was literally on the other side of the planet; about as far from Patagonia as you can get. Thirty years later, I made it here. I didn’t come through a tunnel, but on a plane that flew over the North Pole.

I moved to China one year ago in the position of staff photographer in Shanghai, China’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city. The challenge was enormous: a foreign culture, and a very foreign language.

I spent my first couple of days walking around the city, just wandering; something I hadn’t done in a long time. Before coming to China I lived in Miami, where I didn’t have much of an urban experience, unless you count sitting in traffic for long periods of time.

Probing plastinated life

By Sheng Li

I was totally amazed when I first saw the exhibition of the plastinated human body specimens. I couldn’t believe that inside our human skin we all look like that! After visiting the exhibition several times, my photographer instinct pushed me to do a story on it, focusing on the production process of the specimens.

On September 13, I finally received permission to visit the workshops of Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co., Ltd. I was very honored as according to the founder and chairman of the company Dr. Sui Hongjin, I was the first photographer allowed to photograph the whole process of the making of the specimens.

Founded in 2004, Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co., Ltd. specializes in the production, preservation and exhibition of plastinated biotic specimens of human and animals. Their workshops and the Mysterious Life Museum are located some 50 km (31 miles) from the center of Dalian city, in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning.

Unmasking the masked boy

By Jason Lee

Last Thursday, I left Beijing for the village where the “Masked Boy” lives.

It took me seven hours by train and then by car to reach Mijiazhuang village. When I first saw the boy from a distance, I could already tell how lovely he was. He and his father Wang Shouwu were standing waiting for me. The boy waved at me as I approached. It didn’t take much time for us to get along. His fearless and caring heart comforted me. In fact, he even offered to carry my suitcase when we first met.

I’m not the first reporter to interview Wang Gengxiang. I went to the village because I sincerely wanted to help him. Although the money I donated to the family was relatively insufficient, his story was recognized and spread by many “netizens” on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), many of whom offered their help to the family, who has an income of nearly zero.

Vacation in North Korea?

If you are planning to take an exotic vacation, maybe Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is your place.

A week ago I joined a group of foreign journalists and a delegation of Chinese tourism agents on a trip highlighted by a cruise that left the port area of North Korea’s Rason City and headed south to the country’s famous Mont Kumgang resort. To get to the ship, we took a bus from China to a border crossing in Hunchun. Before we arrived at customs, our Chinese guides collected our mobile phones. North Korean authorities don’t allow foreigners to carry any type of mobile communications.

When we crossed a bridge over the river Tumen Jiang, which marks the border between China and North Korea, we passed from a modern highway to an unpaved country road.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 7 August 2011

After rioting in Xinjiang left 11 dead at the start of Ramadan the Chinese authorities stated that the insurgents who started the trouble had fled to Pakistan. Security forces quickly deployed in numbers to ensure that any further trouble was prevented or quickly quelled. Shanghai-based Carlos Barria travelled to Kashgar to shoot a story on the renovation of the old Kashgar centre, an example of China's modernising campaign in minority ethnic regions. A busy week for Aly Song, who is also Shanghai based, with taxi drivers on strike over rising fuel costs while Lang Lang had local fishermen preparing for typhoon Muifa to hit. In both pictures, the eye is cleverly drawn  to the distance to show in one image, a line of  striking taxi drivers, and in the other, rows of boats bracing for the imminent typhoon.

Ethnic Uighur men sit in front of a television screen at a square in Kashgar, Xinjiang province August 2, 2011. Chinese security forces blanketed central areas of Kashgar city in the western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, days after deadly attacks that China blamed on Islamic militants highlighted ethnic tensions in the Muslim Uighur area.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Armed police officers are deployed at a square in Kashgar August 2, 2011. Chinese police have shot dead two suspects being hunted for a deadly attack in the restive western region of Xinjiang, which an exiled regional leader blamed on Beijing's hardline policies towards her people. The two suspects, Memtieli Tiliwaldi and Turson Hasan, were shot by police late on Monday in corn fields on the outskirts of Kashgar city, where on Sunday assailants stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter, then hacked four people to death, according to the Khasgar government website.  REUTERS/Stringer

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures 24 July 2011

China are hosting the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai. In my mind's eye, aquatics is a sport of power, grace, balance and beauty but our pictures seem to add the additional factors of concentration, determination or maybe sheer fear. Against my better judgement, I just have to mention that some of the expressions on the athletes' faces remind me of the age old tradition of gurning. What also made an impression are the angles, different points of focus and continually new shapes that compliment a file that could have been very repetitive.

Qin Kai of China perform during the preliminary round of the men's 3m springboard diving event at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 21, 2011.        REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Italy's Linda Cerruti performs in the synchronised swimming solo free final at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 20, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures July 10, 2011

I am not a gamer at all but while looking at the file this week was reminded of a facility on electronic gaming my son showed me that allows you to see a different view point of the action. You can have wide, close and closer still. Two pictures of police beating protesters with batons have been shot as close as you can possibly get to the action but for sure this is no game.  Philippines based Romeo (Bobby) Ranoco picture is actually so close that it has been shot over the shoulder of the soldier, who, judging by the blood on the head of the unarmed protester, seems to have scored at least one direct hit . In India  and shot just slightly wider is Jayanta Dey's picture. The fact that it is shot slightly wider makes sure we are aware that it is actually three soldiers beating a protester and not one. The line of composition created by the baton and the flexed arm creating a perfect compositional triangle - Although I am not sure the protester would actually care about that. 

An anti-riot policeman hits a protester with a baton at a rally against what protesters claim to be U.S. intervention outside the U.S. embassy in Manila July 4, 2011. Filipino and U.S. troops are holding exercises in the Sulu Sea off the western Philippine province of Palawan, which lies near the disputed Spratly Islands. Conflicting territorial claims by several countries over the Spratlys and Paracels are raising tensions in Asia. Besides the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are claiming the islands as theirs. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

A policeman wields a baton against an activist of India's Congress party during a protest in Agartala, located in northeastern Indian state of Tripura July 10. 2011. Police used batons to disperse activists on Sunday protesting against the state's alleged discriminatory policies towards reservation of seats in local medical colleges, local media reported. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

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