We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Visual Storytelling Awards 2014. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!

The rise of China over the past three decades has been nothing short of spectacular. Its economy expanded at an exponential rate, propelling the country forward as one of the top financial powerhouses in the world. With a strong financial foundation, more than 160 million of China’s youth migrated within the country to seek better lives.

As a result of China’s One Child policy, more than 160 million Chinese families have only one child. Similarly, more than 160 million of the nation’s population are 60 years or older. In short, the exponential expansion of the nation’s wealth altered China’s demographics.

Most of us dread aging. We fear diminishing beauty and diminishing physical and mental abilities. Our reluctance to age is a commonality across all cultures. Who wants to grow old and withered? Coupled by the bombardment of today’s correlation of youth and beauty, this fear escalates within us. Though our concern is illustrated by the rise of artificial enhancements through surgical or other means, there remains a section of society largely overlooked: the naturally aging population.

This foray into rural China brings us into a world of a graying society. Beneath the smiles, expressions, and happiness, there is an underlying emotional detachment of a person being left behind by the effect of economic expansion.

These images are a reflection of the nation’s history—an important yet forgotten part of present day China. In a society which tends to look at youth and beauty alone, these are the forgotten beautiful faces of modern contemporary China.

—Nick Ng