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In the eyes of the beholders

By Fang Aiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-06 11:59
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A similar glimpse of Beijing's West Chang'an Avenue in April 1981.[Photo by Wang Wenlan/For China Daily]

One of his pictures of those scenes was published in China Youth Daily in 1978 and has been among the most memorable photographs of the event.

In the 1980s, he says, he was greatly inspired by the works of his peers, especially of Liu Xiangcheng, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Chinese-American photo journalist.

Wang was especially impressed by one of Liu's photos taken in the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1981. A young man dressed in a typical Chinese military coat, de rigueur in those days, held a bottle of Coca-Cola - a glass bottle, of course - and smiled into the lens.

That image meant very little to Wang at the time, but for Liu it was a potent symbol of modern Western culture entering the heartland of Chinese culture.

Wang then figured out that individual lives were not only worth recording, but could also be a microcosm of social progress. At least one thing is clear: from then he was keen on ensuring that his works carried a larger historical message, so the photos did not need to look particularly special at that moment, but were being shot for future review.

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