Three Gorges migrants through the lens of Li Feng

A Probe International Exclusive

As we approach the 30-year mark since construction of the world’s largest dam first began, we are pausing to take a look back over the years through the lens of one of China’s most celebrated photographers, Li Feng.

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It is our good fortune that Li Feng felt called to bear witness to the lives that this massive undertaking transformed. To that end, we have curated five galleries focused on Li Feng’s extraordinary commitment to history in the making and a 27-year odyssey made up of moments.

And there are so many moments captured by Li Feng: the sheer scale of the project, the awkwardness of transition, the violence of transformation and the trauma of relocation; scenes of calm juxtaposed against the force of change in the present moment to disappear the past. 

We see in these moments: sadness, joy, ruptures of beauty (a man carrying a tree from his hometown on his back) … resilience, entrepreneurialism, celebration, ceremony, hope, despair. Along with new beginnings, ancestral treasures and memorials are entombed overnight by the dam reservoir’s impoundment. Throughout, Li Feng records glimpses of life in all of its grand wonder – including a woman who sleeps outside to chase wild pigs away so they won’t eat her corn. 

It seems that no matter what happens, the spirit finds a way. Time is another story. It is worthwhile to consider that what lies buried now may not stay gone forever.

Continue here to view the first gallery in this series.

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