Li Tianbing, Untitled
Oil on canvas (signed in pinyin on the lower left)
Inches: 76.75 x 51.25
Centimeters: 195 x 130
When Li Tianbing was 12 years old, he sold a cow and used the proceeds to purchase his first camera, with which he has been traversing the mountains in Fujian province ever since, taking portraits of the people who live in the impoverished, rural villages. Entirely self-taught, he uses black-and-white film, sometimes adding touches of color by hand. Rather than naming the individuals in his portraits, Li labels each one “Comrade,” adhering to the Communist form of address. Through his decades of work, he has amassed a straightforward, subtle, and sensitive visual record of multiple generations of people, who have lived through momentous transitions in China’s history, including independence from colonial rule, the Cultural Revolution, and rapid modernization.