Photo essay: New Youth

Twelve photos from young China


Between 2008 and 2010, I took a series of photos for The China Beat blog (R.I.P). The theme was China's "new youth", also the focus of my then blog. To capture the experience of being young in today's China in a handful of images is a hopeless (but not fruitless) task, not least for a point-and-shoot artist like myself, who thought SLR was the name of an X-factor winning boy band. Still, it threw up some interesting images, in the course of my life in Beijing and travels out of it.

Here are a dozen of them, with glosses.

Three generations: Confucius, welcoming visitors to his temple in Beijing; an elderly sweeper, for whom Mao was the only sage; and a little girl, with other things on her mind

Rock 'n roll: At the Beijing venue YugongYishan (“the old fool who moved the mountains”), the lead singer of student band Mr Graceless bawls gracefully in front of the mosh pit

Crushed faces: A visitor to Beijing’s 798 art district inspects his photos while an artwork inspects him

Christ reborn: Deep in the old town of Pingyao, Mr Zhang stands messianically in his room, next to the Catholic Church he is housesitting while its priest is away

Reluctant bride: On a sunny Saturday in Qingdao, newly-weds flock to have their wedding photos taken. This could be a couple – or they could both be waiting for their other halves

Bouncy pagoda: Chongqing’s historic old town looms over a more modern addition by the riverbank. This kid was more interested in her bouncy throne than in the juxtaposition

Penny for a photo: In Tagong, Sichuan, a Tibetan kid poses for my camera. When his mother looks up from selling trinkets to say a word, he raises his hand to ask for a modelling fee

Dream thangka: Tashi, a Tibetan friend from Qinghai province, poses next to the thangka-esque art he painted on the wall of my Beijing flat in 2008, representing his home village

New red guards: At a Cultural Revolution themed restaurant on the outskirts of Beijing, performers dressed up as red guards sing and dance on stage, while young punters lap it up

Scratching an itch: In his friend's courtyard home near Nanluoguxiang, DJ Qingmu practises for his next gig

Snow sparklers: In the last snow of winter, a child and her grandfather light a sparkler to celebrate lantern festival (yuanxiaojie), the final night of the Chinese new year festival

Young at heart: In a park in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, a 76 year-old former PLA soldier from Shanghai dances over his own water calligraphy, “Dancing is my hoby” (sic)