In 2000, photojournalist Alain Le Bacquer found an underground artist scene in Beijing. As he explored the subject, he noticed that the police were following him. He felt like he was a player in a James Bond film.
He worked on a project in China’s capital city for seven years, examining the developing artistry. He published his black-and-white work in a book, “Beijing Underground,” in 2008. Since then, the mentality of the Chinese has changed, he said.
He returned again in 2010 to follow up on upcoming artists. His newest project looks at the emerging second generation of talent.
“It’s not so simple, the artistic scene in Beijing,” the French photographer said. A decade ago, it was very underground, and a contact was needed to find it. While some artists stay under the radar and critique the government, much of the movement has shifted.
It’s become more about making a career. Le Bacquer sees a parallel between Beijing’s current swing of focus and the one that happened in Europe in the 1980s.
“The old generation paved the road for artists,” he said.
The transition between the two worlds – the old, traditional one and the new, modern China – shocked Le Bacquer. In fact, it’s why his second half of the project is shown in color. The look and feel of the artist world changed. The conditions of the new generation changed. Intentions were more pure before. Now most don’t care about a revolution.
“There’s no memory between one generation and the other,” he said. “The purpose of art is no more of real politics; it’s about individual life.”
The difference corresponds to Le Bacquer’s personal project shift, as well. He has included video this time, a new medium for him. He compares the two forms to styles of writing. Beijing has become a fast city, and he wants to show the speed of that life, as well as a second from a person’s life.
“It’s a story I like to tell,” he said. “This story with all these characters.”
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN