800 Million Farmers was a long term photo-essay that foccused upon a single farming village, Huaji, Guangdong Province, southern China, between 1999 -2003.
Despite the Province being described as the powerhouse for Chinese economic growth and cited as the most properous Chinese Province the farmers lived in the most rudimentary fashion.
They tilled the land using wooden ploughs and oxen, drew water from a well and washed their closthes in the village pond. Electricity was a luxury and the elderly worked in the fields until they were physically unable. There was virtually no social care.
The farmers were harrassed by officials, often related to the enforcement of the One Child Policy, or due to heavy government taxes upon the rice and vegetables that they grew. Several houses’ roofs had been smashed in for non-complience of the draconian Government policies.
A shocking, but too common a practice, especially among young women, was to commit suicide by drinking insecticide. The grandfather of one motherless children told me, after several visits, that his daughter-in-law had died from the poison.
Despite the hardship, the farmers, all believed that better days were ahead, since they had seen far worse days under Mao’s “leadership” when there was not enough food to eat.
The project was shot with a mix of 35 mm and 6 x 6 B/W film on a Nikon SLR and a Hasselblad 500c. Originals were hand printed by Marcus Olienuk and Simon Wan in Hong Kong.
It was exhibited in Hong Kong as part of “Undercover China” in the HK FCC 2012 and published in “The Australian Week-End” magazine.