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[Book Review]Yesterday’s Youth: Middle-school Students in the 1980s


by Ren Shulin, published

by Beijing United Publishing Co., Ltd.,

November 2016





For China, the 1980s was an era of many new introductions and concepts. During the decade, well-known photographer Ren Shulin visited many middle schools in Beijing to observe classes, witness student life during a transformative generation, and capture it all with his gentle, lyrical photographic language.

A total of 170 photos were printed in the book. As one of the key members of April, the oldest organization specializing in documentary photographic exhibitions in China, Ren used his own unique style to document the rich, colorful lives of the middle-school students of that era without any trace of staged photography.

“The strength of his photography is the inertia of the lingering charm, which is the nature of photography,”commented Gu Zheng, a renowned Chinese artist and curator.

The book also includes several articles by Ren Shulin recounting his early years, including his reasoning in choosing to focus on middle-school students, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, his experience learning from senior photographer Di Yuancang and his friendship with amateur photographers.

May 1983: The art room of Beijing No. 171 Middle School. July 1985: A classroom at Beijing No. 171 Middle School. 1980: A college entrance examination room at Beijing No. 75 Middle School.

April 1986: A classroom at Beijing No. 171 Middle School. December 1983: The city moat at Andingmen, Beijing.  July 1986: A class in Beijing No. 171 Middle School.



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