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Snaps of 30 years make an epic scroll

MORE than 30 years of Shanghai daily life from 1960 to 1990 are meticulously recorded by Xue Baoqi, a former worker in a sock factory and a worker-photographer.

It's the cumulative minutia in black and white that has a powerful impact.

"The purpose of this exhibit is to promote Chinese contemporary realistic photography," says Xiao Xiaolan, curator of the exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum.

The 200 works are especially interesting because photographer Xue diligently made notes at the time he shot each picture.

At one time a worker at a sock production factory, Xue later became a photographer at the factory workers' club.

There is a saying that "a good picture must move the person who captures it." And that is certainly true of Xue and his pictures.

Xue is familiar with the lives of ordinary families: their mundane affairs, joys, hopes, worries and pains.

Rather than passively recording events and people, Xue chooses subjects, settings and situations that inspire him.

It may seem old-fashioned today to extol patriotism, learning for its own sake and helping other people, but these were virtues cherished by Xue and people in his lens.

"Through his pictures, we see the traces of political movements during every period and their influence on the people," says curator Xiao.

For example, the hunger for knowledge that swept the country in the early 1980s is reflected in the scene in a park where a mother squeezes out time to read a book while her child sleeps in her arms.

"The significance of the show doesn't lie in one or two pictures," Xiao points out. "Its value is in the sheer number of the photos. Just imagine, the photographer kept snapping what was around himself for 30 years - it almost makes these pictures an epic scroll."

Many of the scenes can never be found today, yet many locals still feel nostalgia for the times gone by.

"Perhaps only older people of our age can fully appreciate the feelings in the black and white pictures, but they might also be interesting for young people to glimpse the days their parents lived through," says Xiao. "Some memories should not be forgotten."

Date: through July 16, 9am-5pm

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Tel: 6327-2829


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