International documentary photographer Justin Jin shoots epic projects in the Russian Arctic hinterland and captures front-page reporting about booming Chinese megacities. Born in Hong Kong in 1974, educated in Britain (B.A., M.A. Cambridge, in philosophy and political science), and now based in Brussels, Justin speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Russian, Dutch and some French. International prizes attest to Justin’s skill. He was commissioned by the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam to shoot a major solo-exhibition, and his recent Arctic project was exhibited at the Visa Pour L’image in Perpignan, France, and won a Picture of the Year award.
Jin first visited Ethiopia in October 2016. Over a few intense days, he roamed Addis and caught rides into the countryside on container trucks “to see where the road goes”. On the way he met farmers, pilgrims, and truckers who treated him with exceptional warmth. Inside Addis, he was stunned by the similarity of its developmental issues and those faced by Chinese cities.
Faced with slowing exports, recently Chinese officials began implementing a historic plan to move 100 million farmers into towns and cities over 6 years to boost domestic demand. China’s rural Diaspora began decades ago, as millions left their villages for factory work in cities. But now the government, not the economy, dictates this new period of resettlement. As apartment blocks are erected on farmland, villagers turn – willingly or not – into local urbanites. Some pop-up cities are already under construction, and others are little more than blueprints. Bureaucrats expect China’s urban population to top one billion by 2030.
History, migration, and social changes are at the core of Jin’s work. He wants to show how policies affect both humans and the planet. As Jin crisscrosses China speaking with rural residents to get closer to a reasonable truth, he feels the weight of the macroeconomic rationale. What happens to humanity — and the earth — when hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers clamour to join the consumptive middle class in one short decade?