Meet ‘Depth of Field’: The Month’s Best Chinese Photojournalism

Welcome to ChinaFile’s inaugural “Depth of Field” column. In collaboration with Yuanjin Photo, an independent photo blog published by photographers Yan Cong and Ye Ming on the Chinese social media platform WeChat, we will highlight new and newsworthy photojournalism published in Chinese media by Chinese photographers. For each column, Yan, Ye, and ChinaFile’s David M. Barreda choose one image from each featured body of work, describe the project, and provide a link to the original piece. Our opening column features stories from Beijing to Zimbabwe, on subjects from teens dropping out of the education system to adults seeking sex ed.

A Bloody Nightmare | Tencent
Feng Haiyong—Tencent News “Living” Channel

Photographs by 

China’s first law prohibiting domestic violence went into effect on March 1, 2016, after a two-decades-long campaign by the country’s women’s rights organizations. Feng’s photo essay details the stories of seven victims. Tencent also published an interactive piece on the same subject.

A Seven-Year-Old Boy’s Last 45 Days | iFeng News
Han Jiwei—iFeng News

Han documents a family’s fight to save their seven-year-old son, Jianhui, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Jianhui’s mother has skin cancer and chose to stop her own treatment to prioritize her son’s. The family received an outpouring of support when Han published their story on Sina’s charity platform and raised 57,000 RMB (roughly U.S.$9,100) for Jianhui’s medical bills before he passed away.

Victims of China’s Unsafe Vaccines | Sina
Guo Xianzhong—Sina

As an illegal vaccine scandal shocks the nation, Caixin Media re-published this photo essay on children who were victims of unsafe vaccines, which was first published by Southern Metropolitan Daily three years ago. The story created an uproar on Chinese social media and the Caixin piece was soon censored. As of our posting, this version of the gallery, published by Sina, has evaded the censors.

China’s Teenage Dropouts | Caixin Media
Photographs by Chen Liang, Xia Weicong—Caixin Media

Chen and Xia photograph middle and high school dropouts in Xihaigu, Ningxia province, one of China’s poorest regions. According to Caixin, “almost half the students in poor areas in the central and western parts of the country had left school by grade nine.”

Chinese Villagers with Their Homemade Aircraft | Vice China
Xu Xiaoxiao—Vice China

This fairytale-like photo essay portrays Chinese farmers who build self-designed aircraft, using scrap metal and household tools. Xu Xiaoxiao, a Chinese-born, Netherlands-based photographer, traveled across China to photograph their attempts to become airborne. The project will be published as a photo book.

A Wax Figure Painter and Her Celebrities | Tencent
Wang He—Tencent News’ “One Day, One Life”

The subject of these pictures is Da Fen, a wax figure painter at a branch of Madame Tussauds in the city of Wuhan. Da is responsible for the daily upkeep of the museum’s 50 waxen Chinese and foreign notables. The 25-year-old is one of only about 100 such professionals in the world who have mastered both the technical skills and the artistry to carry on the 200-year-old tradition of wax painting.

A Lone Chinese Anti-Poaching Team | Tencent
Feng Haiyong—Tencent News “Living” Channel

This is a surprising story about Chinese volunteers combatting wildlife poaching in the Mana Pools National Park in northern Zimbabwe. Their first challenge is to fight the stereotype of Chinese as the world’s largest ivory buyers and gain the trust of local conservation groups.

The Green-Skinned Trains | Tencent
Qian Haifeng—Tencent News

Qian, a hotel electrician in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, has spent eight years photographing train passengers on the country’s iconic “green-skinned” trains, so called for their green exterior paint. These old iron roosters, which began to hit China’s rails in the 1950s, are disappearing as high-speed trains replace them.

Love and Sex Neglected | The Paper
Chen Ronghui—The Paper

Chen goes behind-the-scenes with Taiwanese sex therapist Tong Haozhen at her therapy center in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. Tong’s work is considered bold and novel in a country that lacks much formal sex education and where open discussions of the topic are rare.