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September 25, 2009

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Photography festival focuses on lovers, both young and old

TWO young lovers, arm in arm, whisper to each other while looking at a wedding photo in which a couple drifts in a small boat on a lake dappled with morning sun at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in northern China's Shanxi Province.

American photographer Michael Darius took a picture of the lovers as he passed by. "Chinese people love taking photos to preserve their fond memories," he said.

Wedding photos, which are a ritual of marriage, bear the mark of time, said Zhou Zhikang, who has been taking them for more than 50 years.

Fan Shaozu, 90, has a house full of antique clocks, old furniture and calligraphy collections. But the most eye-catching object in his house is a delicately framed modern wedding picture.

"We took this on our golden wedding day," Fan said, his eyes brimming with tears.

"It's a pity we weren't able to have our wedding photo taken when we were young. Now we've made up for it."

Zhou reminisced. "In the 1970s and 1980s, the husband and wife, wearing brand new but old-fashioned clothes, sat side by side on two chairs," he said. "Every time I routinely asked them to 'get closer to each other' and 'smile.' And click, the photo was done."

At least one person is not a fan. "I don't like old-fashioned wedding photos," said bride-to-be Zhao Hui, born in the 1980s. "Everyone looks the same with thick layers of cosmetics, similar poses and expressions and Photoshopping."

Photography studios were catering to post-1980 couples who want their wedding photos to be special, Zhou said.

"We have gone beyond the walls to seashores, bars, parking lots and rusted factories, anywhere you can imagine," Zhou said.

"And the couples wear all kinds of clothes: traditional, ethnic or post-modern.

"Young couples want their wedding photos to be special and meaningful."

In photographer Zhao Lei's studio hang wedding pictures telling the story of how lovers met each other and fell in love. Some show couples cooking, doing the laundry and watching TV, showcasing marital bliss.

"Occasionally, I see couples taking wedding photos in quiet and old corners of ancient Pingyao County," Zhao said.


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