By Wei Yao
This past winter, Beijing and the entire northern part of China were repeatedly blanketed by thick haze, raising serious concerns among citizens and the government. Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” levels. Therefore, how to clean up the sky became one of the most important subjects for the delegates at China’s annual National People’s Congress (NPC). As a photojournalist based in Beijing, the moment I was told I would be able to cover the NPC, I decided to shoot a series of photographs to illustrate this matter.
The first thing that came to mind was placing my camera at the same position to objectively document the sky of Beijing throughout the two weeks of the NPC. I immediately thought of the Tiananmen Gate with the giant portrait of China’s Late Chairman Mao Zedong, because for Chinese or foreigners, nothing says more about China and Beijing than Tiananmen Gate.
It puzzled me for a while on how to present the set of pictures to highlight the differences of each day’s air quality. All of a sudden, I remembered a combination of images of the midnight sun in Northern Europe that I saw a few years ago, and decided to combine my pictures in a similar way.
Having the idea of how to do my project, I encountered some difficulties. Unlike the midnight sun in which shooting only lasted for a day, I had to reset my camera everyday at Tiananmen Square. I originally planned to shoot a picture from the same position at the same time of day, but in the meantime, I also needed to cover many other NPC assignments for my papers. Being in a rush all the time, I wasn’t able to get the same position or angle throughout the two weeks. Fortunately, after spending a long time editing, I still managed to create what I needed.
The combination picture was posted on Sina Weibo (microblog) at noon after the closing ceremony of the NPC. Within one day it was reposted over 25,000 times. It was ranked as the second hottest microblog on Sina Weibo that day, outranking all the other subjects related to the NPC. From the reposts and comments, I could see more and more people showing concern and attention to the air quality in China, and I am more than happy to see my project achieve a greater success than my expectations.