Intimate portraits of Chinese families during the coronavirus outbreak

Society & Culture

A family portrait by Wu Guoyong, of Xiangyang City, Hubei Province.

“The news is terrifying,” said photographer Wú Guóyǒng 吴国勇, a Wuhan native, referring to (what else?) the COVID-19 epidemic.

Everyone is stuck at home, frustrated.

Then I thought: Maybe we could all do something creative together. As it is traditional to take a family portrait over Chinese New Year, I wondered if everyone could use photography to document the New Year of the virus.

The result of Wu’s epiphany is One Thousand Families (1000个家庭 yī qiān gè jiātíng), a series of photographs solicited from people around China. Wu, in an interview with Thomas Bird for SupChina, says that more than 16,000 people have submitted photos so far.

Some photographers employ the camera to criticize authorities — for instance, one group of anonymous women are shown with the words “There’s no way we don’t understand,” a reference to the death of Dr. Lǐ Wénliàng 李文亮. Others try to capture the tender, hidden aspects of their lives, lived with resilience, but also quite a bit of humor.

The whole thing is an extraordinary document of people trying to be people, full of love, grief, anxiety, defiance, pride, joy, loneliness, hope, and boredom. We have a selection of photos here, along with translated captions — go have a look.