These series of portraits will be part of a Crossmedia project calle Blank Lands, Searching for Zhuang Xueben. The blank lands of China in the 1930s were remote regions, western borders, inhabited allegedly by barbarian cannibals. Yet a passionate young photographer, Zhuang Xueben, chose to make these lands his subject. , which aims to explore the China of today through what has been bequeathed by Zhuang Xueben. Setting off in 1934, Zhuang decided to explore the worlds of western ethnic minorities and spent ten years exploring the furthest corners of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and documenting their peoples. The Tu, Salar, Qiang and Tibetan ethnic groups are few among many that the benevolently curious and observant Zhuang recorded through his ethnographically valuable photographs and diaries. The bridge between past and present will be at the center of the photographic narrative and, within the framework of the changes occurred during the last eighty years in these communities, will open a window of reflection on today’s distinctive identity elements of a country’s socio-cultural connotations of ethnic minorities lost or processed, maintained and then passed on. What Zhuang Xueben produced as a photojournalist during the ’30s and ’40s, can be interpreted as a cultural rebirth from the grassroots forgotten by the Chinese people, that goes beyond its visible production but delves into the Blank Lands of the collective consciousness.
Late July 2010 marked a particularly tragic period in Pakistan’s history. In the north, three days of unstoppable rain caused the Indus River to swell, creating a massive body of water that moved from the Himalayas, southwards to the Arabian Sea. The effects on the country’s already impoverished population an infrastructure were immediate and catastrophic. As the disaster unfolded it was to become more destructive than the Haiti earthquake and the Japan tsunami combined. Out of a population of 168 million, 20 million people were affected by the raging waters, losing their homes and livelihoods, mainly across the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. The floods also affected people in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Pakistan-Administered-Kashmir. More than 1700 people died, more than 7 million were left homeless and at least 1.8 million homes were destroyed. Over 2.4 million hectares of standing crops were submerged, and 450,000 heads of livestock lost, crippling the country’s “bread basket.”