When Self-Criticism Was an Order, These Portraits Were Revolutionary

China’s Cultural Revolution, the decade-long campaign remembered for its fanaticism and upheaval, began in 1966 and was enforced by radicalized students who pledged to put the Communist Party ahead of self.

Mao Zedong’s army of young cadres was encouraged to suppress individuality in favor of a greater communal cause — no matter how dangerous the mob became.

At a time marked by forced confessions known as self-criticism, one young photographer, Wang Qiuhang, turned his camera on himself, subversively celebrating the self rather than suppressing it.

The earliest portrait of Mr. Wang in his collection was taken when he was 17. Credit Wang Qiuhang/New Century Press


“Cultural Revolution Selfies,” published in July by New Century Press in Hong Kong, is a collection of portraits depicting Mr. Wang, taken by himself and friends from 1966 to 1976. In Mr. Wang’s photos, there are no choreographed assemblies, no raised fists, no flags. Instead, the images are intensely personal — revealing a playfulness, an absurdity, and a bit of bourgeois indulgence rarely seen in photos from the time

Mr. Wang’s emphasis on individuality, said Bao Pu, co-founder of New Century Press, is what makes his photos unique.

Article d’Amy Qin paru dans le New York Times du 19 août 2017 : When Self-Criticism Was an Order, These Portraits Were Revolutionary

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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