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Red-Color News Soldierby Zhensheng Li
Synopses & Reviews
The Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976) remains one of the most catastrophic and complicated political movements of the twentieth century. Almost no visual documentation of the period exists that which does is biased because of government control over media, arts, and cultural institutions. However, Li Zhensheng (b. 1940), a photo journalist living in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang during the revolution, managed, at great personal risk, to hide and preserve over 20,000 stills during the ten-year period. He was able to capture the events as a party-approved photographer for the Heilongjiang Daily. This body of work is the only known existing photographic documentation of the Cultural Revolution. It has remained unseen until now, except for some 8 photographs that were released for publication in 1987.
Red-Color News Soldier includes over 400 photographs and a running diary of Lis experience, both capturing and explaining events of which little or no other visual record exists. The images are powerful representations of the turbulent period, including photos of unruly Red Guard rallies and relentless public denunciations, Maos rural re-education centers, as well as prominent participants in the Cultural Revolution. Jonathan Spence, a leading historian of modern China and Yale Professor, writes in his introduction to the book, Li was tracking human tragedies and personal foibles with a precision that was to create an enduring legacy not only for his contemporaries but for the generations of his countrymen then unborn. As Westerners confront the multiplicity of his images, they too can come to understand something of the agonizing paradoxes that lay at the center of this protracted human disaster.
This book excels both as a volume of compelling photography and an exciting historical record. It is truly unique and indispensable for all interested in modern Chinese history or the powerful cultural role of photo journalism.
A major exhibition of Lis photographs will be presented at the Hotel de Sully in Paris for 3 months starting 24 June 2003, before touring to other venues in Europe. The exhibition will be curated by Robert Pledge, founding director of Contact Press Images, and will include approximately 150 photographs and documents selected from the collection presented in the book.
"This minutely documented (the 285 prints were gleaned from the tens of thousands of negatives Li hid under his floorboards), scrupulously honest (the book orders all the prints strictly chronologically, and all are uncropped) record of revolution on the grassroots level should at the very least mortify those who, as morally obtuse college students, toted the Little Red Book (unread and unreadable) in their hip pockets." Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
The Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was one of the most catastrophic political movements of the 20th century. Photo-journalist Li Zhensheng managed to preserve over 20,000 stills, 400 of which are presented in this collection and which capture and explain the turbulent events of the period.
- Only known existing photographic documentation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76)- Controversial visual record of an infamous, misunderstood period of modern history that has been largely hidden from the public eye, both within China and abroad- Exceptional story of one photojournalist, Li Zhensheng (b. 1940), who took and concealed for decades, at great personal risk, thousands of pictures- Written narrative by the photographer himself, who was granted unusual access, providing both a historical and personal context- Introduction by Jonathan Spence, Yale professor and pre-eminent scholar of Chinese history
About the Author
Li Zhensheng was born in Dalian, China in 1940. After studying film, he joined The Heilongjiang Daily as a photojournalist in 1963 and documented the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In 1987, a collection of twenty of his photos from the Cultural Revolution titled Let History Tell the Future was released and won the grand prize at Chinas National Press Association Photo Competition. Since October 1996 he has been a visiting scholar, lecturing on the Cultural Revolution at Harvard and Princeton universities. His work has appeared in Time, The New York Times Magazine, Der Spiegel (Germany), and Le Nouvel Observateur (France). Li, a Chinese citizen, is currently engaged in academic research, writing, and lecturing.
Jonathan D. Spence is Sterling Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of a distinguished body of work on the history of modern China, including the seminal book, The Search for Modern China (1990). The Gate of Heavenly Peace The Chinese and Their Revolution 1895-1980 (1981) was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. Spence was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1988 and is established as a one of the foremost experts on modern China.
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