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Rural photographer captures life's farewell moments

By LI XINRAN in Beijing and HU MEIDONG in Fuzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-29 08:30
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Wu (right) shows pictures to an elderly man. CHINA DAILY

Wu Muliang, a compassionate photographer from rural China, transforms funeral portraits into cherished memories, bridging generations and creating a visual legacy for forgotten lives.

In China, having a portrait of the deceased at the funeral holds great significance. Wu Muliang, a 24-year-old from East China's Fujian province, took on the responsibility of capturing funeral portraits for his fellow villagers.

Wu embarked on this task coincidentally. He had left the village at the age of 16 and only returned last year.

"I switched between lots of jobs and moved around frequently. There has always been a sense of belonging that's missing," he said.

Taking funeral portraits for the elders was not part of Wu's plan when he first decided to return to the village.

With a background in the new media industry, Wu was originally looking to make videos centered around agriculture and rural areas — topics that were trending both on social media and at the state level. This is why he was surprised to discover that his camera gravitated toward a task more significant than he had anticipated.

Raised by his grandparents until the third grade of primary school, Wu saw them only once or twice a year thereafter. "When I first came back, I could truly see how time had changed Grandma. Her back used to be as straight as a pole, and she would do farm work every day by herself," Wu said.

"But now her back is bent to about 90 degrees, and she often needs my assistance with farming."

Wu's grandfather passed away nine years ago. At that time, the family couldn't find a proper funeral portrait for him, and it has always been a regret for the whole family.

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