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October - Jian Cheng Dong.

Jian Cheng Dong works as a photo­grapher for the China Xinhua News Agency but finds time to be a guest lecturer too. The selection in the calendar is from his book ‘Ancient Bridges and Houses in Waterside Shaoxing’; a portrayal of the bridges from this ancient part of the world.

It would be hard to avoid noticing the presence of China in our daily lives anymore. Not so many years ago China was often seen as an exotic region in the world that was apart and distant, either as a rural anachronism or a curious experiment in politics. The image today is somewhat different. There seems little doubt that China is climbing the ladder of economic growth and power at a pace that is catching many nations unaware in the rest of the world. Meditative thoughts while fishing on the riverbank under a paper lantern seem to have been exchanged for the explosive industrial production of whatever the rest of the world wants, from t-shirts to computers. However, Jian Cheng Dong shows that this might not be completely the case just yet at least.

Jian Cheng Dong learnt painting and calligraphy when he was a boy. Moving on to photography seemed a natural progression and a part of his development so in 1975 he started to take photography seriously. He became interested in people and their environment and in rural communities in general. This interest remains and is evident in the nature of his works. He grew up in a changing world influenced by two different cultures and this, he feels, has put a stamp on what he does.

 He is currently the director of the China Shaoxing Little Swallow Art Center, a guest lecturer at the China Academy of Art, as well as being a contract photographer for the China Xinhua News Agency. He has won the Lu Xun Literature Award twice and his work was included in the Hasselblad ‘Magic Dragon’ audio-visual production in 2001 that has toured around the world.

At present Jian is editing his personal work for publication and has two projects starting soon. One concerns his hometown of Shanxing and the other is about the area south of the Yangzi River. Both take up the subjects of people in the rural community as well as historic sites. He will be using his 503CW with 50mm, 80mm, 120mm, and 250mm lenses as well as his XPan with 30mm, 45mm, and 90mm lenses. Reliability is one of the main characteristics he cites for using Hasselblad equipment; “Hasselblad can guarantee the quality” he adds.

There’s a good deal of planning involved in these projects. Jian draws a parallel with playing the piano saying “…you have to keep the main rhythm, and hit the right notes…”. There’s obviously an element of dedication in his way of working and devotion to what he does. He admits that photography is the main part of his life.

He plans on publishing more books about his main passions. Perhaps that’s just as well when you consider the rate of change in China today. His books will probably end up on the history shelves almost as quickly as the photography shelves.