Culture Article

Event date: 24/05/2019 10:00 - 11/08/2019 18:00 Export event
One Billion Journeys
China Minutes
/ Categories: Culture, Art, Events

One Billion Journeys

Wang Fuchun’s Chinese on the Train

The Science Museum Group is set to launch a new touring exhibition that celebrates the work of internationally acclaimed photographer Wang Fuchun.

Opening on 24 May, at the National Railway Museum, the free exhibition will include photographs being exhibited for the first time, as well as personally selected highlights from his 40-year career. 

One Billion Journeys: Wang Fuchun’s Chinese on the Train,provides a snapshot into the diversity of life on China’s railways, told through a collection of 43 candid, black and white portraits of his fellow passengers.    

The exhibition also documents Chinese society during one of the most profound periods of change in the country’s history. Earlier images in the exhibition show crowded, steam or diesel-hauled passenger trains which were used by rural workers to commute long distances to work in China’s emerging big cities. 

Later photographs demonstrate the growth and pace of technological and social change, as China ‘opened up’ to the outside world. China now has the world’s longest high-speed railway network, with trains travelling up to 217mph. 

The exhibition is divided into five themes: Loving & Caring, Entertainment & Boredom, Work, Comfort and Health & Spirituality. 

Charlotte Kingston, Head of Interpretation and Design at the National Railway Museum, said:

“It is a great honour to host the opening of One Billion Journeys: Wang Fuchun’s Chinese on the Trainand what better home for the exhibition than the National Railway Museum in York?

“Although made exclusively in China, Mr Wang has captured scenes of life to which we can all relate. As well as expressing the emotions and character of his subjects, these photographs are a powerful record of the dramatic pace of change in China.” 

A professional, freelance photographer living in Beijing, Wang Fuchun has a lifelong passion for the railways and began taking photographs as a railway employee. He was accepted into the Train Driver Training School of Suihua Railway in 1963, aged 20 and worked in several positions, before becoming a full-time photographer in 1984. 

Mr Wang has since developed an international reputation, exhibiting in the United States, Russia and across Europe. His work was last shown in the UK as part of an exhibition at Glasgow University in 2012.

The earliest images in the exhibition were taken on a Chinese twin-lensed Seagull camera which produces a distinctive square photograph. Once more established, Mr Wang switched to a higher quality Leica camera, before adopting digital photography in 2005. 

Mr Wang’s continues to predominantly shoot black and white images which he feels suit the documentary-style pioneered by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Over the course of his work, he has travelled on every railway line in China, clocking up more than four thousand railway journeys and taking an estimated 200,000 photographs.  

He has also suffered for his art, having twice broken his ribs, breaking a leg and enduring countless delays and uncomfortable journeys. His candid style has not always been warmly received by other passengers and he recalls being attacked as recently as 2015 on a train from Shanghai.  

Wang Fuchun said: 

“This is my Chinese on the Train.It’s the culmination of all the experiences of my life and my 40 years of photography, so I’m extremely pleased to be able to exhibit my work in Britain.”

One Billion Journeys: Wang Fuchun’s Chinese on the Train, is on display at the National Railway Museum from 24 May until 11 August. It is the Science Museum Group’s first shared exhibition to start at the National Railway Museum in York. 

In September the exhibition will travel to Locomotion in Shildon, before visiting the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, and finally the Science Museum in London. 

China MinutesDarcy Littler

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