Courtesy of Ronghui Chen
Ronghui Chen is a Chinese photographer and storyteller based in Shanghai, whose work focuses on China’s urbanization. Known for his interest in the issues arising from the position of the individual within the urbanization and industrialization of China, Chen published his first collection of photographs named Chen Ronghui, now part of China’s Contemporary Photography Catalog. Now he is a graduate student at Yale School of Art.
Student: Winning Entry: Petrochemical China
The Yangtze River delta is both one of the country’s most prosperous regions and home to its largest concentration of petrochemical refineries. Here chemical plants stand mere hundreds of meters away from residential districts — with no obvious barriers between them. “Cancer villages” are an increasingly common phenomenon, and traditional lifestyles based on farming and fishing are fading away.
In the winter of 2013, a panic broke out in my hometown, as residents rushed to buy bottled water after the city river was polluted by the chemical plants situated upstream. In many places, taking photos of industrial waste is forbidden, and it was months before I was able to photograph the plants responsible — and then only from a distance. Over the past few years, I have driven 20 thousand kilometers and made countless trips to the scene in order to document the aftermath.