In 1999, I moved to Chicago from Shanghai, China, for my job as an engineer. I was immediately captured by its colorful culture and people. I was totally stunned by its vitality and power, which I had never seen or imagined before. There was a strong urge inside of me which wanted to express my feelings and reaction to this great city. I started to use my lifelong passion, photography, to document what I saw, what I felt and what I thought.
City of Chicago is truly a big melting pot. Everywhere you look, you can see people from almost each corner of the world; everywhere you go, you can find evidence individual ethical customs or traditions. Each culture and custom are well respected and preserved. Yet, in the midst of diversity, I saw similarity: love of freedom and opportunities, warm, being kind and generous, outgoing and carefree, honest and direct, dedicated and resourceful. Different cultures shaped city of Chicago, in turn, modified each ethical group in the city.
Chicago is also a miniature of the great America. It has 125 different neighborhoods, a successful example of harmony of diversity. Since 1999, I started to photograph Chicago and its people, from a wedding parting passing through Michigan Avenue to a restaurateur delivering box food to homeless under bridges; from cityscape to city parades and festivals. On a quest to create a lasting record of life in Chicago in millennium year, I spent almost every day canvassing the city and chronicling its people, places and personality. I tried to use my photos to blend into a rich, historic document that will inform those in the future long after it teaches us about ourselves. A city is constantly reborn. It lives, it grows, it dies, and it is born again.
I started by working for CITY 2000, a prestigious photo project that documented Chicago in the year 2000 as a documentary photographer. For the past 15 years, I have been documenting many Chicago’s neighborhoods and its people, from cityscapes to city parades and festivals. On a quest to create a lasting record of life in Chicago in the new century, I spent almost every day canvassing the city and chronicling its people, places and personality. I use my photos to create a rich, historic document that will inform those in the future long after it teaches us about ourselves. A city is constantly reborn. It lives, it grows, it dies, and it’s born again. I hope my photos tell the story of Chicago.
I took more than 150,000 photographs in 15 years. However, I only told a small portion of the story. The photos are a first remembrance of what will hopefully be a thousand-year-long trail, a living record of one year of life in one great city-Chicago. I hope these photos as a message to the future.
I have also created several special projects for myself. One is photographing Chicago baseball Cubs fans. For four years, I attended most every Cubs game—focusing on the fans instead of the game in an attempt to answer the mystery of why this historically losing team has such a huge following.
My work was exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center and the Water Tower—and published in the CITY 2000 book and Chicago Tribune. The University of Illinois at Chicago Library has collected more than 8,000 of my photos.
I like what Jack Kerouac wrote in the introduction for Robert Frank’s “The Americans”, “As a picture–the faces don’t editorialize or criticize or say anything but This is the way we are in real life and if you don’t like it I don’t know anything about it because I’m living my own life my way and may God bless us all, maybe” … “if we deserve it”…