As I move closer to publishing the book Vacation Boy, I am finding quite a few cool photos I would like to share, but contextually didn’t have a place for them in the book. I’ll share some of those here. Starting with one of my favorites…
This photo was taken across the street from my university in Hangzhou, China in 2000. Everywhere buildings were getting ripped down and replaced at a pace that felt like China was in a rush to try and put the whole country up for sale. A popular phrase at the time was “Construction is moving faster than the planning for it”. It could be unsettling as institutions (like restaurants, stores, bus stations and airports) that you counted on being there, could be gone in a heartbeat. The pace of change was fun to witness as you could see the Chinese enjoying the tide of new development but also questioning their own identity and how they fit into the New China.
It was within this context that I got this shot. In the bottom right and up on top of the building you see the sweaty workers who are doing the dangerous work of tearing these buildings down by hand, using manual tools like sledgehammers. The building has been razed all the way to the last 20 feet. On the last wall, you can see the phrase spray-painted on the wall, “Who Am I?” in English.
I have no idea why a Chinese person would spray paint something like this on their wall in English, but there it was. Here on this about-to-be-destroyed building, it felt to me like the perfect summation of the introspection that the country was going through as a whole.
The next day, the entire building was gone.