Over 20,000 boys were being tolen annually in China in the early naughties and sold to wealthy couples who did not have a son. Largely the consequence of the draconian One Child Policy and the social preference for sons and heirs.
The project was extremely challenging because the authorities in China wanted to keep the parents’ grievances from the general public and away from press attention. They employed extreme measures to stop the parents talking about their stolen boys. They considered the families with lost children, most of whome were poor migrants from the country-side, as trouble-makers. They often locked up the group en-masse. On several occaisions the portable field studio was broken up in a matter of minutes.
Aside from the emotional strain of losing their children to gangs of child stealers, the parents were often at the mercy of often, but not always, uncaring, authorities.
I met the parents at secret loactions where I interviewed and photographed them. The project took several years to organise and photograph .
Portraits were shot on a Mamiya 6 range finder in black and white and printed by hand in Hong Kong.