China from a train-workers’ eyes

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Wang Fuchun creates intimate portraits of Chinese people crossing massive distances by train. He started photography whilst working on the trains, and the unique position his role gave him – walking back and forth through crowded long-haul journeys – gave him a chance to capture the atmosphere of hundreds of strangers temporarily living in close quarters.

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He chooses his subjects with a wide eye: young and old, male and female, of a variety of colours and religions, they reflect the remarkable diversity of the Chinese populace.

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Intimate and often revealing, the images are nonetheless respectful to their subjects and show them in a tender light. Even when shaving or helping a young child pee, the people he captures are confident, calm, relaxed. The alert but unselfconscious attitude of most of his subjects reveals a warm and respectful personality behind the camera.

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Wan Fuchan’s images are an inspirational starting point, as they show how a relatively unglamorous job has its own unique perspective that can be shared through the medium of photography. I am inclined to wonder how differently we might view our local area if we were to see it photographed, for example, by our street-cleaner or postal worker.

All images © Wang Fuchun and shared here for educational purposes only.

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Schoolgirls challenge harassment with these remarkable posters

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These remarkable images created by children of a primary school in London show how much young people can achieve when their creativity is supported. Photographer Karina Walton worked with an all-girl group to create these instructional posters for the school – instructional for boys.

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The project came about when some of the girls came to Walton. Their proposal was to produce some work in response to verbal and physical harassment they experienced in school – harassment that Walton notes amounted to sexism and racism. In the workshops that followed, the girls had free reign to choose the subject matter, poses, lettering and design.

The resulting images owe their power to the participatory process which Walton facilitated. I’m particularly intrigued by three factors that contributed to their success:

  • The participants worked in a safe space protected from the oppression they were trying to challenge. The children felt that as the issue was with boys, no boys should be involved in the creation process. On reflection, the children felt this gave them increased confidence in the workshop as they were not worried about the boys taking control of the equipment or laughing at their activities.
  • The facilitator brought in examples of other relevant work that the participants could draw upon for inspiration. In this case, one of the children was particularly interested in the use of lettering in Barbara Kruger’s work. She remarked on how the words “jumped out at you”, and Kruger’s work subsequently informed the bold text in the final posters.
  • The participants could influence all elements of the photographic process, including medium, location, and the layout and content of each photo. For example, the children chose black and white film as they felt it was more suited to serious content, whereas colour film was suitable for “happier photos”.

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Produced in 1989 with pupils from Snowsfields Primary, the posters have a direct intensity that still rings true today. By focusing on their own experiences and creating a personal response, the girls created images whose meaning echoes far beyond the environment they were created for.

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Further reading, images and quotes: Kamina Walton, “Creating Positive Images: working with primary school girls”. From What Can a Woman do with a Camera? Ed. Jo Spence and Joan Solomon. Scarlet Press, London, 1995. Images are © their creators and displayed here for education and inspiration.

Pride

Pride_by_Josh Jones

Bedouin children in the West Bank of occupied Palestine.

The children of this valley are put at constant risk by the live-fire exercises that Israeli military conduct in the area. Their mother told me how soldiers would set off explosives of all sorts, from gas bombs to sound grenades, on the hill pictured behind. The ground is then left dangerous, as many explosives remain undetonated.

These children remain strong, and the older brother insisted I try riding his horse – which I did, bareback, for the first time in my life.

Thanks for dropping by – all comments are appreciated.

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008.

Milking

Milking_by_Josh Jones

While visiting the home of some Bedouin farmers in occupied Palestine, I was invited to try milking a sheep.

I was rubbish. Honestly, it’s harder than it looks. And it really feels funny, like a warm furry water balloon.

Later that evening, the farmers treated us to gallons of hot, sweetened goat’s milk. We left after nightfall, disturbed by their stories and humbled by their generosity.

A popular photo of mine depicts this boy and his little sibling, and can be found here.

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008.

Strength

Strength

Kalim, local councillor, shows me the positions in which he and other inmates of the prison were forced to stand for days on end.

This building was built by the British during the Mandate control of Palestine, and was later used by the Israeli military as a prison. In the late 90’s, the Israeli military pulled out, and most of the buildings have since been renovated. The building is now a community centre for local groups, arts and theatre.

Some of the cells and torture chambers, such as this one, lie hidden behind locked doors. They have been left to fall into disrepair, but significantly not demolished. Graffiti on the wall mimics the ‘agony position’, a sort of half-crouch, which the prisoners – almost all of them incarcerated for political reasons – were forced to endure. Kalim spent seven years, from the mid eighties to the early nineties, mostly in this jail.

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Twenty-four hours before, I was eating ice-cream in a water park. The smell of water is intoxicating in the Jordan valley – so many rivers have run dry because of climate change and Israeli water diversion, that to catch the moist scent of humid air always brings out smiles and gasps of pleasure. The owners of the park, five brothers, had given us the warm greetings we had become accustomed to in Palestine, and within minutes we were stuffing ourselves with shockingly sweet bubble-gum ice cream.

On the table we spread out a souvenir from Jerusalem: a map of Palestine and Israel, showing the Israeli ‘security wall’ that surrounds and divides much of the West Bank. Pink splotches represented Israeli settlements, and checkered pink showed the settlements of Gaza that were abandoned in 2006. Dotted, intangible lines marked the theoretical boundaries between Israel and Palestine, which now lie well neglected.

Somewhat dizzy from ice-cream, I sat admiring place-names. One of our group, with a air of sadness and of hope, indicated with a sweeping hand from East to West, from occupied Palestine to the coast of the Meditteranian, ‘One day. All this.’ His suggestion was that Palestinians might regain the land that was given away by the British to form the state of Israel. Kalim shook his head. ‘Not even that’, he said, ‘Let them keep their land.’ We fell silent. He was calm and spoke as though from a great depth. He said: ‘Just for us to be left alone.’

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I thought I knew what strength was before I came to Palestine. Really. I thought that if you could take a blow and not flinch, you were strong; that if you could risk your life in order to save what you loved the most, you were strong. That strength is about fighting for what you believe in.

I have met strong people, and by example they have shown me I was wrong. They do not fight; they do not take up the knife or gun, they do not preach violence or hatred. They have endured immeasurable suffering.

They are strong because in spite of their experience, in spite of every low feeling telling them to tear apart their oppressors, they have kept their humanity. They are still kind. They are, I can say for sure, the most peaceful people I have ever met. I see now that any old fool can pick up a gun and fight. It takes real strength to preserve your humanity.

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008.

Strength II

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Khalim is sitting in the courtyard where he and other Palestinian political prisoners were kept chained and hooded. He explained how he was commonly kept awake there for a number of days; soldiers would pour freezing water over anyone who appeared to fall asleep. The courtyard was abandoned by the Israeli military, and has since been left untouched.

This courtyard is a part of a large prison, most of which has been renovated and turned into a community centre. This photo is the second of two, and the first is accompanied by some of my thoughts. You can read it here.

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008.

Al-Aqaba

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A man of Al-Aqaba, a village in the Tubas region of Palestine, shows us the demolition orders for the school, nursery, clinic and mosque that he helped to found.

If the orders are not challenged in court, which is a lengthy and expensive process, then all the buildings in the village will be razed by Israeli military bulldozers.

I should add something personal here to help the reader digest this, but honestly, I don’t know what to say.

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008.

Father

Father

A man of the village of Furush Beit Dajan stands before the mud brick structure that he and his family were forced to live in after their home was demolished. Having destroyed their home, the Israeli civil service have prohibited the family from making any repairs to the dilapidated farm buildings they now have to inhabit.

He told me how one of his sons, aged five, was recently bitten by a poisonous snake while he slept. The snake had entered through one of the many holes in the building. The father rang the hospital but on hearing his location, the person on the end of the phone said, ‘Sorry, no Arabs.’

The father attempted to drive his son to the nearest emergency hospital, at Nablus, but was blocked at an Israeli military checkpoint and forced to return home. His son died later that night.

I cannot imagine how someone can retain their sense of humanity after such an incident. As we sat over sweet Palestinian tea, the father told me he did not want retribution. ‘All I want is the right to build, and access to water and electricity’, he said.

Out there it seemed to make sense, but having returned to Britain I am more and more bemused by the stoic humanity of the people I met in Palestine.

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008.

Precious

Precious

Woman and her grandchild, in a small Bedouin tent in the West Bank, Palestine.

The soldiers from the nearby Israeli settlement use the crop fields around these tents for live-fire exercises. I spoke to a woman in the next tent who had been shot in the head by a rifle bullet while picking herbs in the middle of the day. She had survived with fifteen stitches.

I asked the woman pictured if she or her family had had a similar experience. ‘The bullets fly over our heads’, she said, ‘but so far, God has been kind.’

Image and text © Josh Jones 2008