In 1989, Xu Yong photographed the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China. For 25 years, the negatives have been hidden in his archives in order to prevent censorship by the Chinese government.
Photographer Xu Yong was 35 years old when the student’s protests started in the spring of 1989, triggered by the death of Hú Yàobang, the general secretary of Chinas Communist Party. As the regime held on to its rigid policy amidst the drastic change coming about in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Tiananmen Square became the center of the protests. People took it to the streets, demonstrating for democracy and the freedom of the press as much as against corruption and censorship. In the dawn of June 4, the Chinese military ended the protests forcefully.
Among the protesters was Xu Yong who intuitively captured the scenes with his camera. All photographs of the events were strictly censored by the government later on. The images were therefore hidden in his archives for 25 years. This year, however, for the first time in Germany, a selection of his works has been exhibited at the Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie. Yong decided against processing the images and instead reproduced inverted color negatives which may only be decoded with a smartphone or tablet camera, via the function of inverting color effect to negative, providing us with a surreal, yet unbiased glance at these historic events.
Yong’s main objective was to publish his photographs one day as testimony of the events and to artistically transform its historic significant and political content. Through his negatives we see more than what his photographs show at first sight as they mirror the difficult times of censorship in China. In 2014, Xu Yong finally published his photographs in a book. However, sales and distribution has been inhibited by the government ever since.
Since 2015, a new edition of the book is available, published by Verlag Kettler in Germany.
Galerie Julian Sander is proud to show a selection of works from the series “Negatives“. Xu Yong will be present on the opening weekend and available for a book-signing on September 4 at 3 pm.
Xu Yong is born 1954 in Shanghai. Lives and works in Beijing, China.