As China looks back on 40 years of reform and opening up it’s time to look back and see how far the country has changed. The youth whose energy and optimism seized the moment with experimentation and invention back in the first decade of the new era built the foundations of an outward looking, successful and confident China today. Consumer goods, food, clothes, hair and much more were beginning to get a lot more interesting in both the cities and the countryside.
British photojournalist Adrian Bradshaw came to Beijing in 1984 to study Mandarin just as everyday life was in flux. He would go on to spend three decades living in, experiencing and recording this transformation. Bradshaw settled and married a Chinese and would stay longer than any other overseas photojournalist, bringing an empathy and understanding to his subjects that is rare.
In his twenties in the 1980s, Bradshaw was in the company of the young people who drove the reform era and built many of the features of 21st Century China: the artists, farmers, entrepreneurs and industrialists whose enthusiasm and positivity made things happen. This energy that made history is still bursting forth.
Adrian told PhotoArchiveNews.com: “I spent nearly three decades covering the era of economic and reform in China for international media. This book is mainly personal – previously unpublished work – that I did in my first years there, a time when anything seemed possible. The country was emerging from decades of turmoil and suddenly full of hope and energy. I went as a young student originally and found myself in a vast country where the median age (in 1984) was 23.6 and youth was in the forefront of a new age. It was a special time that cemented my interest in China. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the fascination people of all ages in China are showing in my work from this period: in their rush to the future very few coherent records of daily life were made. I had an exhibition at the Shanghai Fashion Weekend in October and found millennials in particular loved to see where the modern age of style and self expression began.’
The book will be available from the publisher: impress from 17 December and later from Amazon.