“Lost Boys/ The Vanishing” was a long term project related to the effects of the One Child Policy. The Communist Government’s policy, for 30 years, was to restrict population growth by limiting families to a single child.
The Chinese’ natutral preference for a son and heir, meant that male toddlers were highly valueable.
Boys were often stolen and sold to those seeking a boy. Poor Chinese migrant workers workers were especially targeted since they had very little means of recourse as corrupt policemen and officials were paid-of by rich buyers.
I spent years tracking down the parents of the “lost boys” who agreed to be photographed in a mobile “studio” with a medium format Mammiya7.
During the entire project I, and the parents, were followed and harrassed by police, who wanted to silence the desperate parents. Most shoots were aborted.
We asked the parents to write messages they’d like their lost children to see on their photographs.
One reads: “My poor son where are you? I miss you very much. Are you okay now? Please come back. Mum can’t live without you. Mum dreams of you every night, dreaming that have come back to our sides. Don’t know when can our dream comes true.”
I only ever met one parent whose child had been returned by the police in four years of working on the project. That child never left his mother’s side, both mother and son petrified he would be stolen again.
“Lost Boys” won two Human Rights Press Awards, for photography and writing.
The project was widely published in newspapers and magazines in Asia and Europe.
A Portrait of grieving parents was exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum,Washington