Skip to Content

The things they carry

Gallery: Photographs by Huang Qingjun

In training his Nikon lens on the possessions of ordinary Chinese during the past 16 years, Huang Qingjun has borne witness to China’s changing real estate landscape. His sweeping yet intimate portraits of families amid their household items — furniture and flasks, electronics and heirlooms, clothing and cosmetics — chronicle the layers of modernization that have settled over this vast country of 33 provinces. The series, called Jiadang (“Family stuff”), has driven the Beijing-based Huang to respect minimalism. “We own too many unnecessary things. Home is where I can rest, recharge my energy, and gain inspiration.” He laments that China’s rapid economic development has been a boon to citizens in urban areas while leaving behind those living in remote swaths of the country. For his part, Huang, 45, says that if a camera were to focus on the contents of his own abode, photographs and books would dominate the frame.  — Fiona Luis

Jin Kuiji and Chen Youzhen; Zhejiang Province, 2011

The couple lived in their house for more than 60 years. Their ancient bed was the only possession too difficult to move outdoors for the photo shoot. Jin has since passed away.

Wang Liping, Li Yinzhen, and Wang Xianggui; Guangdong Province, 2011

This fishing boat can house up to 10 people for about three months. At the time, the couple’s 17-year-old daughter’s dream was to attend a university in a city.

Huang Xufeng and Liu Yuhong; Heilongjiang Province, 2009

Huang and Liu operate an inn and organize games for tourists in their hometown of Shuangfeng, a popular winter destination. Their child had to travel to another village for school.

Yang Liu; Beijing, 2014

After Yang graduated from university and worked for 15 years, she launched her own company in 2014. Her apartment is in a residential area of Beijing. She loves art, music, golf, and travel, and has visited 20 countries.

Batu Aoqier and Aoyong Qimuge; Inner Mongolia, 2007

Most Mongolians have electricity, running water, and live in brick houses. This couple earns their living from more than 200 sheep and five cows. Their yurt — with a TV receiver, wind turbines, and fences — contains traditional furniture as well as modern products.

Liu Manfu; Hebei Province, 2014

A practicing Taoist, Liu has lived on Jimingyi Mountain for more than a decade. He was 12 the first time he visited the mountain to worship Buddha. His children live in a nearby village; he prefers the quiet life.