photographs and text by
Last year I was helping my mother sort out all the family
photographs. Apart from the customary family portraits in front of the
same Christmas trees and behind birthday cakes, most of the photos taken
of my brother, my sisters and me were during our day trips out at various
I have just a few memories of these pictures being taken. However, I still
have such vivid memories of all the parks we used to go to. The penguin
bins, the bumper cars, the trains and the ice cream stalls are all so
clear in my mind, little snippets of memories that make up my childhood.
Sadly, nearly all of these parks have long since disappeared, forever
living only as memories.
This project explores similar recreational spaces found in China. In 1958,
at the beginning of "The Great Leap Forward", when private
ownership was banned, many existing parks were renovated and new parks
were built all across China for the people. Many were renamed People’s
Park. Over the years, they became main focal points of the cities, where
families had their outings and couples met. Children’s amusement
parks and zoos were often built within these parks to provide entertainment
for the local kids.
China is changing at a staggering pace. The "economic miracle" means that
the Chinese are enjoying a much more affluent lifestyle. Shopping and
internet have replaced bumper cars and Ferris wheels. As China continues
to "progress" and embrace capitalism; many of these parks,
a fundamental part of Communist China, have become dilapidated. However,
many workers are still employed by the government to maintain these parks,
and they remain open for the people.
Millions of older Chinese have grown up with these parks and have
memories of time spent in them. Just like the parks, it is quite likely that personal memories of the parks are
slowly fading away with time. Like the family photos I have, the photographs
in this series act as a record of memories that may soon disappear entirely.
— Kurt Tong
Kurt Tong was one of three winners in the first annual Lens Culture - Rhubarb Photo Book Awards. You can purchase Tong's 102-page book through Blurb.com.