Published March 12, 2013
BEIJING – Each spring, thousands of people from China's farthest reaches stream into the country's capital to attend the biggest event on the political calendar, the National People's Congress. It's a tightly orchestrated affair that rarely veers from the script, a challenging assignment for any photographer trying to capture interesting and compelling images of the event.
After years of covering these annual legislative sessions for The Associated Press, I decided to try something different this year. In an effort to present a fresh, new perspective, I turned to technology from the past. In this case, a film camera.
Infused with vibrant, saturated colors and a grainy texture that carries a hint of nostalgia, film photography conveys a richness in tone that tends to be missing in today's digital images. Shooting the often staid political meetings on film adds a sense of timelessness — accentuating the feeling that these scenes have played out before.
To create a cinematic quality, I used a Hasselblad XPan camera that produces a panoramic format nearly twice as wide as the traditional 35mm frame that most photojournalists use. The panoramic view captures more details — the people, the colors, the layers, and the spaces. It captures what's happening at the margins, not just at the center of the scene.
For example, one panorama shows delegates from the Xinjiang region of western China having group discussions, while their secretaries chat and a female official shields her face from the camera with a notebook.
In another, soldiers dressed as ushers guard a curtained corridor, with an anti-explosive device at one end of the frame and a huge vase at the other — a fitting metaphor, perhaps, for the historical and political events playing out around them.