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'A Panoramic View of China's Cultural Revolution'

September 13, 2012 - Ben Klein
Whenever it came time to talk about the Chinese Cultural Revolution in school, there were very few photos and if there were they were always of someone carrying a giant picture of Mao.

Li Zhensheng was a photojournalist during in China during the decade of Mao's Cultural Revolution and the photographs and the story behind them are stunning.

In an interview with Sim Chi Yin of the New York Time's Len's Blog, Zhensheng discusses how he took the "positive" photographs used for propaganda and the "negative" photographs he kept hidden beneath the floor boards in his home.

"He snipped those frames off his film and hid them under the parquet floorboards of his house until the revolution ended. He did not show these pictures in China until the late 1980s," the Time's said.

Zhensheng, now 72, was trained in cinematography and had intended to become a filmmaker.

"The cinematic influence is apparent in his panoramics that he made by carefully recorded sequences, panning his hand-held camera with his arms and zooming with his feet, and then joining images frame by frame," the Time's said.

Two of the most striking photographs in the slideshow (which I suggest you view in full-screen) are number 17, include the staff at the newspaper where Zhensheng worked disciplining a man wearing a dunce cap and number 20, a panoramic photograph of "hundreds of thousands" mourning Mao in 1976.

In the interview Zhensheng said "If I could do it all again, I would have shot more of ordinary people's daily lives. I didn't do enough of that at the time" and describes the process of shooting "joiners" to create panoramic photographs.


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