In case it is the last time
28 1月 2024

This project bears witness to my life experience in Shijiayao Village, Shao Yuan Town, Jiyuan City, Henan Province, China.  I spent the first three years of my life there, while my grandparents lived there for nearly fifty years.  As time passed, considering the advancing age of my grandparents, my parents thought that the city could provide better medical care and living conditions.  Thus, fifteen years ago, they relocated my grandparents from the rural area to the city.  Despite the move to the city, the ancestral home and its belongings have not changed. Every festival we go back to our hometown to visit relatives and friends. Due to my decision to study abroad during high school, I’ve had scarce reunions with my family over the past six years.  Therefore, I always seize such opportunities to capture images of my grandparents with my camera, listening to their stories of the past and the land.

My grandparents were both farmers and never received a formal education, sustaining their livelihood in the rural area through farming and labour, relying on the land’s resources. My father worked hard and sought opportunities to lead our family out of rural life.  The fast-paced lifestyle of the city made the elderly, who were accustomed to rural life always feel out of place, they often longed for their hometown. Consequently, my father purchased a small vegetable garden in our residential area, providing a space for my grandparents to grow vegetables, temporarily soothing their desire to return to their hometown.

In recent years, there has been a call in my hometown to return cultivated land to forestry, resulting in many farmlands being used for afforestation, and farmers migrating to cities to seek jobs.  Despite these changes, the frequency of my grandparents returning home remains unchanged, but the number of friends they have back home is slowly dwindling.

The brightest street lamp in the centre of ShiJiaYao Village serves as the village’s post-dinner gathering spot, where conversations range from inquiries about job opportunities in the city, weddings in neighbouring households, visiting sick friends in nearby villages, to neighbours relocating to the city due to the arrival of new children who require the elderly’s care.  While the city rapidly develops, the nights in the countryside grow quieter.

The storytellers are gradually ageing, and the memories of our homeland are slowly fading away.  Standing atop the hills, the elderly seem to be softly murmuring, bidding farewell to their hometown.

In my creative process, I use large-format and medium-format film cameras.  Slowly winding, changing film, focusing, measuring light, and taking photographs intertwine with conversations with family members during the camera setup.  Distant memories are revisited repeatedly, delineating the changes spanning three generations.  The process of conversation and photography serves as a form of healing for everyone involved, and I have become the collector of these stories.