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 parks.

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.