50 years on 35mm

By Sandra Chen (cityweekend.com.cn)
Updated: 2008-05-26 15:58

Even if you've never heard the name, you have seen the works of photojournalist Marc Riboud. From newspapers to museum exhibitions to textbooks, Riboud has produced some of the most iconic photographs of the last six decades. In a perfect convergence of France and China, the Paris Beijing Photo Gallery opened their new space with an exhibition of Marc Riboud in China.

Riboud first traveled to China in 157, and he has returned each decade since. Curated by Riboud and gallery directors Romain Degoul and Flore Sassigneux, the exhibition creates a visual narrative of China's changes and growth over the past half century. Riboud's camera has captured the proletariat masses, Mao and post-Liberation culture, as well as China's fast-paced capitalism. "When we opened the gallery, one of our main goals was to exhibit photojournalists who had worked in China," says gallery manager Perrine Pautre, "Who better to represent this than Marc Riboud?"

Riboud has come across troubles photographing Communist China, both in the past and today. There's a picture of Mao at a banquet, alongside a quote from Riboud that reads, "The only foreign photographer present, I was subject to one mysterious restriction. I was forbidden ever to photograph the Great Helmsman from the front. On this particular evening, however, I managed something of a scoop: Mao, full frontal, drinking a glass of Mao Tai." And though things have gotten easier for foreigners today, there are still the occasional snags: A few of the captions originally intended for display were not permitted.

This is only the second exhibition of Riboud's work in China. Like other Western photographers who have exhibited at Paris Beijing, Riboud was selected, in part, for his connection to China. "It is good to first introduce works from Western photographers who have worked in China, to provoke a large interest from our Chinese public," says Degoul. And indeed the Riboud exhibit has achieved this. An elderly Chinese lady approached Pautre at the opening, asking if Mr. Riboud was there. Upon discovering he was still in Paris, she then asked if Pautre would kindly tell Riboud, "Thanks for the memories"

Marc Riboud's photography of China then and now
Where: Paris Beijing Photo Gallery
When: Through June 10