A photographer in China

Roy Robertson Hon FRPS, 15th January 2024
Roy’s first visit to China in 2010 came about as he was President of the Royal Photographic Society and as such was invited to Shanghai for a Photographic Festival and World Fair. He was flying the flag for the Society and as such was treated as an extremely important guest whilst attending welcome dinners, lectures and photo exhibitions. Interestingly the photographs and the lectures seemed to be somewhat critical of life in China with depictions of poor citizens struggling with life. The World fair being one of the few opportunities for the ordinary Chinese to see anything of Western culture had people bussing in from all round the country which resulted in 10 hours queues for something only open for 11 hours!

Roy’s second visit was in 2012 to Guangzhou when he flew in via Hong Kong spending a day there seeing the sights. It’s a very crowded city and every inch of space is used as evidenced by a school playground built underneath a busy flyover. Apparently on Sundays all the Philippino maids who are employed in the city have the day off and meet up to have picnics and catch up with others from the same village sitting around on pieces of cardboard wherever they can find a space. Guangzhou at the time appeared to be a huge construction site and westerners were viewed with great suspicion. However at the Art College he was there to open he was mobbed by students as a celebrity whilst ignoring the rest of the official party!

The final visit in 2014 was an invitation to the Asian Photographic festival in Beijing and being told to book flights for a ten day visit but only needing to be “official” for two half days left plenty of time to sightsee. Despite the apparent freedom it was still necessary to have an official guide which did have advantages in that they were able to visit some sites off the tourist trail such as a visit to a traditional village outside the city to see what rural life was really like.

Roy’s talk was amply illustrated with some wonderful photographs and it gave a real insight into not only the rise of photography in China and increasing prosperity but also real life and its accompanying difficulties.

- Val Brierley