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Very fast forward

By Yang Yijun (China Daily)

10:21, July 02, 2012

German photographer Martin Kummer and his wife, Margarete, find 30 years of contrast in China in their hats as well as in his photos. (China Daily/Gao Erqiang)

Everybody talks about how fast China has changed in a generation. A German photographer in Shanghai shows Yang Yijun exactly how fast.

With camera in hand, Martin Kummer understands what's happened in China over the last three decades even more dramatically than the Chinese people who have lived through the changes.

While China has evolved over days, weeks and years for its own citizens, Kummer's China has more than 30 years between "then" and "now". His hair has all turned gray, but the memories are etched in his mind and his photos.

In April 1976, Kummer, who was then a journalist with the Hamburg Morning Post, came to China with his wife Margarete Kummer for the first time with a group of German journalists at the invitation of the Chinese government.

In the three-week trip, he traveled through the country from north to south and took about 1,200 photos in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Guilin and Hong Kong.

The couple came back in 2006 and re-visited the cities by the same route. In five weeks of travel, Kummer took another 100,000 photos, many of which were shot at the same spot as 30 years ago.

Earlier this year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Germany, Kummer selected 120 of the photos and displayed them in Shanghai in the exhibition called "China in 30 Years". The exhibition has also been presented in Hamburg, Beijing and Zhoushan of Zhejiang province.

The photos, displayed in pairs with the one taken in 1976 on top and the 2006 one below, display sharp contrasts.

"The most noticeable change in China over the 30 years is the architecture," says Kummer, pointing at his favorite pair of photos, which show the dramatic changes of the Pudong area.

In 1976, the scene is gray farmland. Today's it's a vast financial center full of skyscrapers.

When he took the earlier picture, Kummer says, "I saw nothing there, except several statues of Chairman Mao Zedong. Look at the area now, it's amazing," he says.

"However, what's more important, the people's mood and mental status are different," he continues.

He moves to another pair of photos, which were both taken at Beijing's Wangfujing Street.

In the old black-and-white photo, all of the people were wearing suits of a similar style and color. In more recent color image, people are dressed in various styles.

"Thirty years ago, people looked serious. But now, they are more relaxed and in good moods," he says.

"In fact, the changes can be easily noticed in many details," he adds, holding two canvas hats in his hand.

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