Stephen Campbell Moore as Joe and Claudie Blakley as Tess in Chimerica. Photo: Johan Persson.
In the summer of 2001, I was living in a factory, in a village, in central China. I was in the middle of a two-year stint of fieldwork for my PhD.
It was hot. So hot in fact, that the factory’s furnaces blazed only during the night, for fear that workers would succumb in the day. Most nights, I lay awake into the small hours, sweating, my senses overloaded by the clangs and flashes from the factory courtyard.
One morning, I was roused by one of the labourers. He announced that a VIP, Mr. Liu, had driven from the city during the night to collect me. Mr. Liu was a senior regional official who had taken me under his wing. I knew him well and we had become close. In fact, he had taken me out on many trips before, though never perhaps with quite this sense of urgency. I got dressed, washed the sweat out of my eyes with a bottle of drinking water, and went to the factory gates to meet him.
He looked at my dishevelled frame disapprovingly, then thought better of his critique and smiled: “We are going to do some business. We will eat with some friends.” I knew well what this meant. His driver beckoned me into his shining black car, and off we drove down uneven roads through the pinks and oranges of dawn, to a remote part of the province.
Nancy Crane and Sean Gilder in Chimerica. Photo: John Persson.
Find out more about the ficitional and the not-so-ficitional people that feature in Chimerica.
Karl Collins as David Barker in Chimerica. Photo: Johan Persson.
Assistant Director Choon Ping explains the references to American culture in Chimerica.
Elizabeth Chan in Chimerica. Photo: John Persson.
Assistant Director Choon Ping explains the references to Chinese culture in Chimerica.
Stephen Campbell Moore as Joe in rehearsal for Chimerica. Photo: Johan Persson.
“A photograph is not an opinion,” mused Susan Sontag. “Or is it?”
It may be a mission. Exemplary practitioners like Robert Capa, Philip Jones Griffiths, Don McCullin, James Nachtwey and Gilles Peress are documentarists who refuse to be confined by that description. They are witnesses. But they are not neutral. They have a point of view – they are against forgetting. “What sustains me is the overall value in communicating,” says Nachtwey.