Volunteers from university in SW China's Guizhou take 10,000 pictures for local rural residents over 11 years

(People's Daily Online) 13:29, July 10, 2023

Since 2012, a photography team from Guizhou Normal University in southwest China's Guizhou Province has made 26 visits to villages in the province and taken family pictures for nearly 7,000 local families.

Photo of a family taken by the photography team of Guizhou Normal University. (Photo courtesy of the photography team of Guizhou Normal University)

"I know you, young man. You were the university student who took pictures for us!" After he got out of the car, Zheng Yuxiao was immediately recognized by an elderly villager in Xinglongchang village, Yangjie township, Weining Yi, Hui and Miao Autonomous County, Guizhou.

Eleven years ago, Zheng, who was a student at Guizhou Normal University, set up a photography team together with his schoolmates. On one occasion, they came to Xinglongchang village to snap pictures for local residents.

The students have been to more than 80 villages in Guizhou to take pictures for rural residents, recording the changes that have taken place over the course of 11 years.

Photo shows children in Qianfeng village, Mashan township, Wangmo county, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Photo/Zheng Yuxiao)

The photography project was continued by younger students of the university after Zheng graduated.

Zheng has been a photography enthusiast since he was a child. In 2010, he was admitted to Guizhou Normal University. Majoring in photography, Zheng joined the school's student journalists association.

When he was a sophomore, Zheng read news about college students taking pictures for villagers during vacations, and believed he could do the same thing. When he told his idea to members of the student journalists association, he received a positive response.

Villagers look at pictures taken for them by the photography team of Guizhou Normal University. (Photo courtesy of the photography team of Guizhou Normal University)

At the end of May 2012, the students embarked on their first photographic journey.

The photography team once took over 400 pictures for villagers in a mountainous village in Liupanshui city, Guizhou, and were warmly received by the locals.

"Some elderly people and children had never had photos of themselves taken before. After they saw their pictures for the first time, their eyes were filled with joy," said Zheng.

A member of the photography team from Guizhou Normal University distributes pictures to local villagers. (Photo courtesy of the photography team of Guizhou Normal University)

After they returned to school, the team made a display board and put it up on the campus. The project caught the attention of teachers and students of the school. Some students said they wanted to donate money to the project and some enterprises expressed their willingness to offer sponsorship.

However, members of the team refused the offers of donations and sponsorship because they wanted the project to always remain a public welfare project. Meanwhile, to keep the project going, the students made money in their spare time by collecting and selling used books and beverage bottles. About one month later, during the summer vacation, they went to other villages to take pictures for local residents.

Members of the photography team of Guizhou Normal University take pictures for villagers in Niuchang village, Sidazhai township, Ziyun county, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Photo/Cui Tianyun)

At one point, when the photography team became known by more students, it had 40 to 50 members.

In 2014, Zheng was admitted to a university in east China's Shandong Province for postgraduate studies. Before leaving, he passed the project materials to younger students of the association.

During the May Day holiday of 2022, the university's photography team came to a village in Anshun city, Guizhou to take pictures for local residents. During the daytime, the students were busy taking pictures for local villagers, and at night, they slept in tents and ate instant noodles for supper.

Members of the photography team of Guizhou Normal University cross a river on their way to a village in southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Photo courtesy of the photography team of Guizhou Normal University)

It has now been 10 years since the service was established, and the team is still very active.

After obtaining a master's degree, Zheng returned to Guizhou and became a photographer at a local news outlet.

Earlier this year, Zheng accompanied members of Guizhou Normal University's photography team to revisit Xinglongchang village. He met Wang Linhui, a villager who he had taken pictures of years ago and found that the village had gone through drastic changes over the past 10 years.

"My house was built five years ago during a project to renovate dilapidated houses. It is a spacious, bright and comfortable place now," Wang told Zheng.

Wang showed Zheng a photo album that contained many photos Zheng had taken of her family. In one family photo, Wang and her two children were standing in front of their shabby adobe house.

"At that time, my family was impoverished and my husband supported the family by working outside as a migrant worker," Wang recalled. Now, her daughter is married and her son has a job that allows him to support himself.

"By working at an industrial base and raising livestock, I can earn 20,000 yuan (about $2,760) to 30,000 yuan a year, which is enough to support the family," said Wang.

Over the past 11 years, the photography team of Guizhou Normal University has taken more than 10,000 pictures of villagers in Guizhou. Today, the students have come to realize that the pictures not only capture many happy moments, but also show the changes that rural areas have been through.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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