Chen Ronghui is a young Chinese photographer born in 1989. He works for “Sixth Tone,” an online English-language media outlet based in Shanghai. In the Freezing Land series, which is on view at the festival, he pays tribute to the millenials of the frozen and forgotten regions of northern China.
A fascination for freezing landscapes
A few years ago, the artist came across Tales of the Hunan River, which is set in Manchuria. Fascinated by the snow and the icy landscapes where the characters live, he developed an obsession for Northeast China, a landlocked region between Russia and North Korea. Once prosperous, it is now experiencing the country’s highest level of recession.
One day, by a stroke of luck, his magazine sent him on assignment to the Northeast. “I didn’t hesitate a second,” he recalls. “I took my large format film and I flew to the freezing land I had always dreamed of.”
The story of an isolated youth…
For Chen Ronghui, a large 8×10 format, beyond its visual appeal, gives him the opportunity to really reflect on what he is photographing, “On the essence of the story I want to tell, and what it means to me,” he explains.
And what exactly are the stories he tells us about in Freezing Land? Interiors: colorful rooms as a refuge. Exteriors: snowy expanses as a playground. Subject: millennials as isolated as they are connected. Snuggled up in their down jackets and their sheepskin boots, they express the melancholy and solidarity inherent to their situation and the choice they face: try their luck in the big southern cities, or stay in the north and embrace their destiny.
…that is also ultra-connected
But just how does one go about meeting the youth of a new place and earn its trust in streets where it is -30 ° C? “I used an app called Kuaishou, which is a social network, to look for young people willing to share their stories.”
Like this 14-year-old live-streamer, with a wig on his knees and an empty look in his face after a show. Though followed by hundreds of fans who send him money online, he doesn’t have many friends in real life. “His life seems colorful, but it is tinged with loneliness,” says Chen Ronghui. An uncompromising portrait of China’s young generation.
By Charlotte Jean
LIANZHOU FOTO FESTIVAL, A Chance for the Unpredictable
November 29, 2019 – January 3, 2020
Lianzhou, Guangdong, Chine