全球唯一“城市\建筑”双年展
THE ONE AND ONLY BIENNALE
OF URBANISM\ARCHITECTURE IN THE WORLD
I'm Not From Here, Either

Mark Leong / United States

梁永光 / 美国

In the 1990s, when I first started living in Beijing and learning putonghua, I would frequently get lost in the streets and would ask passers-by for directions. As often as not, they would shrug their shoulders apologetically and tell me "Wo ye bushi zhelide" – I'm not from here either.

Typically, the Guangdong urban village has been a transition zone for migrant people not from here, between city and countryside, between development and establishment.  For my style of documentary photography, I have long gravitated towards communities like these, adapting to new ways of living while marking out small pockets of territory.   

Many of the pictures I have shot over almost three decades in greater China share this same spirit of unsettled flux.  I, too, feel like I am in a transition zone, present yet not necessarily belonging: an outsider photographing other outsiders.  The idea, then, of these images shown in this exhibit is not to record a single geographical moment in time, but rather a particular point of view that, like an urban villager, may define its own transient space.

As a kid in California, I never imagined I would spend most of my life far away from home in China.  In my mind, this was the almost mythical place where my grandmothers and greatgrandfathers had left behind.  But I took a photo course in college, and then another and another,and suddenly the restless desire to see things with my camera sent me on a path the would bring me back.

First came the Chinatowns, these puzzling alien neighborhoods in the middle of American cities– the drop-off point for many immigrants that also became my re-introduction to living Chinese culture.  After graduation this led to my ancestral villages in the Pearl River Delta counties of Shunde and Taishan, where I tried to discover who I might have been had my ancestors stayed in China. Then a year at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, followed, just like that, by more than twenty more years living in Beijing as a professional photographer that I did not plan to be.

In 2005, I photographed an urban village in Longgang, Shenzhen, for a story about China's floating population. I had seen my subjects as typical migrants, roaming from place to place in search of temporary work, then ultimately returning to their homes in Sichuan ― but five years later,I discovered many of the families were still there, living in the same houses.  My ancestors, too,intended to return to Guangdong after making their fortunes in Chicago and San Francisco and Arizona, but they never went back either.

A couple of months ago, I did finally pack up all my stuff and move it to California, where I now live about an hour away from where I grew up. I have no idea what I will photograph here.


Mark Leong is a fifth-generation Chinese-American photographer from Sunnyvale, California.