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Thirty years’ watching the changing face of Beijing

By Bruce Connolly | | Updated: 2018-04-24 09:49


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"Photography today offers possibilities impossible in my earlier days. There is now available software that can enhance a photograph, to effectively tell a story. With some images I have applied simple techniques to create such effects and add interest to the shots."

- Bruce Connolly

The dramatic skyline of Beijing’s CBD 2018. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/]

"What? Thirty years involved with China? You must have seen so many changes!"

I have lost count how many times that question has been fired at me. Actually it is difficult to answer. To start, what do we mean by "changes"? China's overall change has accelerated in recent years, particularly through the growth of high-speed rail now happening nationwide. Though reform and opening-up stimulated the economy during the late 1970s and early 1980s, growth and adjustments were initially patchy. Traveling by train north to south in 1987, I was crossing a country where the technology was still at an intermediate level — that is, until we pulled into Shenzhen! The contrasts then were dramatic, but a starting point for the transformation I have witnessed nationwide over three decades. Wherever I go, my camera remains by my side, though today's smartphones produce excellent images.

Living in Beijing over many years the dramatic, often vertical, alterations to the city's s skyline have certainly caught my attention. However in earlier days, Beijing was a very different city. Apart from a few exceptions, mostly along the eastern Third Ring Road, most buildings in Beijing were low-to medium-rise. Within the formerly walled Ming Dynasty city, buildings crowded around historic hutong alleys were generally one floor.

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