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East of Caochangdi


2011.05.24


East of Caochangdi
Beijing, CN
2011.05.13
Despite Beijing’s apparent density, the city is dotted with expanses of unused and marginal land. This land takes the form of rubbish piles, demolished villages, or other ephemeral conditions. In some cases, it is former agricultural land that urban villagers have simply stopped farming. During the Olympics, areas like this were often walled off from view—particularly along routes lead from the airport. The same was also true of occupied urban villages that were thought to be too unsightly for Western eyes. China’s modernization has rendered these areas, both inhabited and desolate, as urban by-products—spaces obscured or forgotten, and thus understood as a void in the city between somewhere and somewhere else.

This man was coming out of a trash dump when I encountered him just east of the village. Whether he lived there, was discarding trash, or found the poor child amid a heap of refuse (my preferred narrative), I have no idea. After he left, I walked in to take a few more photos and was promptly kicked out by a woman that I assume was the gatekeeper. My attempt to claim ignorance–the default language excuse–didn’t get me very far.