The Greater China Grant
Encouraging Photography In The Greater China Region
Made in China
Kai Loeffelbein - lower saxony, Germany
In recent years China has become one of the biggest economic powers worldwide. Hundreds of millions of workers produce countless products that are designed especially for the American and European market. Together with a publisher we agreed to make a photo volume about the working environments of China, which will be joined by Chinese workers literature and non-fiction texts.The book will span a wide range of subjects from large production halls to small salespersons.
China is known as the factory of the world. No other country exports more goods than the People's Republic of China. Each second digital camera, every third mobile phone and every fourth machine in the world are produced in China. In recent years China has become one of the biggest economic powers worldwide. Hundreds of millions of workers produce countless products that are designed especially for the American and European market. Together with a publisher we agreed to make a photo volume about the working environments of China, which will be joined by Chinese workers literature and non-fiction texts. The book will span a wide range of subjects from large production halls of international companies and suppliers who produce for western markets toys, circuit board or solar panels to small salespersons who offer their products on the roads to other locals. In several chapters a panorama of the Chinese labor landscape will be shown that wants to break with stereotypical expectations of a backward socialist work society, neither it wants to show a picturesque travel photography. 'Made in China' wants to create a deep insight into the chinese society of work. It also aims to show the modern chinese work environment: my pictures will show steel and coal industry workers, photos of team-building programs for managers, will document the working conditions in innovative high-tech industries and focuses on the problem of an aging working population: images of big city commuters and street food vendors will all equally stand side by side.
One chapter of the book will focus on the phenomenon of 'migrant labor (Nongmin Gong)' and wants to throw light on the lives and worries of Chinese migrant workers. How do these people live far from home? How do they keep in touch with their families at home? What drives them and what difficulties are they facing?
The fate of migrant workers is closely linked to China's progressive urbanization. It is estimated that in the coming years up to 90 million migrant workers from rural areas are moving into the cities. Apart from the obvious focus on the urban area, I want to sneak a peek at the working conditions in the rural areas of China.
In recent years, due to my work as a professional photographer I have worked repeatedly in China: As part of my long-term project 'CTRL-X a topography of e-waste (Steidl Verlag)' I documented the processing of electronic waste which is brought illegally into China. Another story about the workers within the toy industry brought me to Shantou. In Hong Kong I documented over a period of two years the living conditions of migrant workers. My fascination with Chinese culture, the impressions that I was able to gain while on working assignments and the enormous relevance of China as an economic power brought me to this idea.
The book 'Made in China' should give the readers insights into an – more or less- unknown environment. My photos will try to risk a documentary view that is designed to enable the reader to gain their own unprejudiced view into China's labor market.
With the help of the Luminous Endowment grant I will be able to undertake this project. The project money will help me to fund the airfare, the travels within China, accommodation and meals as well as well as visa and communication expenses. I would consider myself as an experienced documentary photographer. Before I studied photography I studied political science. My work reflects my interest in the ways political and economic structures shape our modern society. I divid my time between client work and personal projects. I have worked in various countries in South America, Asia and Africa. My work has been exhibited internationally in numerous shows and festivals and has received awards from Magnum Emergency Fund, UNICEF POY, Days Japan, Henri Nannen Award, PDN Photo.