Fighting stereotypes with a camera

By Cheng Lu/Wen Chihua ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-10 08:34:32

Fighting stereotypes with a camera

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Kurbanjan Samat. Wen Chihua/China Daily 

As Xinjiang marks the 60th anniversary of its founding as an autonomous region this month, one Uygur is using photography to paint a different picture of the place, report Cheng Lu and Wen Chihua from China Features

When amateur boxer Kurbanjan Samat bought his first camera, he never expected that he would one day use photos to fight the stigma surrounding people from his native Xinjiang, his fellow Uygurs in particular.

"You're thought of first and foremost as a barbecue operator, nut cake vendor, thief or terrorist if you're from Xinjiang," the 33-year-old photographer and documentary filmmaker says, referring to perceptions of people from this restive northwest corner of China.

Following a number of terrorist atrocities in Xinjiang and some perpetrated by Xinjiangers elsewhere, people like Kurbanjan are trying to address these stereotypes.

"If you don't stand up to fight the labels, they may stick to you sooner or later. What happened to Henan 10 years ago (when the province came to be thought of as the center of Chinese counterfeiting) is now happening to Xinjiangers," he says. "Applying labels to whole groups of people reinforces irrational behavior."

We meet Kurbanjan, dressed like a typical young stylish Chinese man in a fitted black shirt, cream rayon pants and black sneakers, as he is giving interviews about his photo essay, I Am from Xinjiang, which tells the stories of 100 Xinjiangers of various ethnicities and professions across China.

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