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China Seagull

An ode to a slower pace in the world’s fastest country

Photo by Max Cavallari

One of the principles of Taoist philosophy is that in order to obtain something, one should pursue its opposite because everything contains just a little bit of its opposite. When applied to photography, this principle would suggest that the best means with which to photograph the world’s most rapidly developing country is with the slowest camera. The country is China, none other than the homeland of Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism: a nation that like no other has developed and transformed its appearance in the space of just a few decades, almost making it unrecognizable to the eyes of the very same Chinese people. A nation projected into the future in a spasmodic way, but at the same time strongly determined to preserve its traditions, convictions and past belief systems, which become its new bedrock.


The camera is a Seagull 4, an analogue twin-lens reflex produced in Shanghai in the 1960s and the most commonly used in China, the lenses of which documented a large part of the country’s history until the 1980s. A slow, inaccurate, cumbersome camera, an object from the past that forces the photographer to observe the subject matter carefully before pressing the button: perhaps for this very reason, it is the best tool with which to analyse and understand what China has become and, above all, what remains of it.

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