My hometown: a visual journey in sepia

Dan gave me challenge before I visited my hometown Fuqin: to photograph everything in black and white with a single lens only. So I did. Behind every photo there is a small story to tell. Here’s a slice of my story…

Time has definitely passed on. Every time I returned, there would be a time lapse of 8 years. How grandparents, aunties and uncles aged and how cousins grew so tall so quickly. Here’s a photo of my grandpa, I guess he’s happy to see her grand daughter pointing a big camera in his face.

A tradition in my hometown: before a big event, before we leave for a long journey, or return from a long journey, our loved ones would cook us noodle with hard boiled eggs. I ate grandma’s home cooked noodles graciously, every mouthful reminding me of her warmth and thoughtfulness.

If I had to count which word my relatives said to me the most, it would have to be: eatChina has changed at such a breathtaking pace that the old china I once knew and left behind as a 9 year old girl has faded away and gone almost completely. Tall buildings mushroomed, and where there used to be people in farmer’s cone hats carrying chickens and livestock, I see wider roads and traffic lights and Hondas.

In this picture, people gathered on this bridge to take its last photographs, for it will be torn down the following day to make way for a new metro station

But every now and then, you spot a corner which remain completely unchanged, a reminiscence of a past soon to be forgotten.

Cold and rain did not deter us, for the view was worth it.This picture brings up bittersweet memories. It was my first family house, now sold to some family I don’t even know.

Sometimes fragments of childhood memories would surface, fishing with friends and catching butterflies, fireflies, and the croaking of frogs into the night whilst I lay awake enchanted and listening.It is customary in a Chinese wedding for relatives to give blessings in the gesture of sticking flowers into the bride’s hair.I remember those summer nights we used to sit restlessly as children on these hard seats, whilst the adults watched the Peking Opera.To anyone else, this is just any old crumbling doorway. To me, it opens a floodgate of memories.

That’s the little hole I used to peek out of for hide and seek. I stood there, my camera in hand, wanting to capture it all, as if I can still hear the laughter of the old days running with my cousins, and hear my late grandpa telling me to help him make the cotton blanket, and see the image of my late grandma lying lifeless at her deathbed as I cried for hours not wanting to let go.This lady is happy to see me, she keeps saying that I look like my mum. Although I have no recollection of who she is. The weirdest thing about wondering around my hometown is that I get strangers coming up to me all the time, telling me how much I’ve grown.This was a history tour for my brother, who left China when he was 2.In the days when there is no tap water, we would draw it from the well.We have an ancestral hall which lists all the descendants in our family tree. Both my dad and brother’s names are there, etched in history.

I visited my old childhood house many times in my dreams. So it was a surreal feeling actually walking up the stairs to the room we stayed, now cobwebbed and deserted for years. I clicked the shutter because I wanted to immortalise time, and that place I grew up in; before this precious piece of my memory fades and distorts into oblivion, before this building too gets torn down and replaced.