Seasons Greetings from the North East Men

A man born in the country of ¡°black earth¡± (hei tudi), Wang Fuchun has two loves in his life, one is the railroad, with its steam locomotives and its fellow travelers he so often encounters, the other is his own countrymen of the North East (dong bei ren). On both subjects Wang has established and proven his reputation as one of the best documentary photographers in China. This series of white country photographs exhibited here for the first time in Shanghai is like himself: authentic and natural, honest and frank, ever optimistic and with a warm big heart as pure as the ice crystal.

The first impression is a bowl of fresh air thrown in our face: his portraits of the North East Men appears to depict a paradise on earth, where animals and men look just like they have always been, since the oldest ages, living in peace and harmony, with the environment in pristine conditions. In that sense Wang Fuchun¡¯s photography should be classified as an endangered species, threatened by extinction. Only in our deepest collective unconsciousness we could have dreamed of such a perfect world where according to the Daoist principle, Heaven, Man, and Earth are set in a circular, balanced, perpetual interaction, at the same time with a permanence that is supposed to last for eternity. There is not a single individual portrait, the North East Men appear either in families or in couples as if in the great cold Northern country solitude is by nature forbidden, which explains the energy, warmth, sense of friendship, solidarity and the fierce loyalty well known of the Dong Bei Ren, magnificently demonstrated in the group portrait of the winter bathers on ice, in their Full Monty. There is no urban hassle no pollution no financial meltdown no god¡¯s warriors in Wang Fuchun¡¯s snow white country, it is a total stress-free, pure and innocent world, filled with image d¡¯¨¦pinal, the sort of farmer¡¯s paintings for the new year, the sort of too-real-to-be-true folk art that reminds us of our original garden of Eden, where we are always welcomed by our neighbors with whom we share the festive banquets, where animals, birds and fish are men¡¯s best friends.

We should be all grateful to Wang Fuchun for achieving this extraordinary folk painting, carrying his heavy large format view camera and equipment, guiding us to his home country, sharing with us his love for his countrymen, the hospitality of his brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties, even the seldom seen North East ethnic minorities, the simple but abundant meals, most importantly his warm heart and his pure and smiling eyes. Let¡¯s be grateful to his greeting cards for the new year, they give us a lesson of optimism and of vital energy indispensable to overcome the challenge of the new days ahead.

Jean Loh

Wang Fuchun - North East Men
104 pages