mandag 25. oktober 2021

‘It was like the whole region had turned into an open-air prison,’ photographer says of Xinjiang

Chinese netizens were up in arms in July when self-taught French documentary photographer Patrick Wack, 42, posted his photos and captions of northwestern China’s Xinjiang region on Eastman Kodak’s Instagram account. The photos were from his book, “Dust,” a compilation of more than 70 images of life in Xinjiang, ordinary Uyghurs, and changes in their surroundings that were produced in two projects in 2016-17 and 2019.

Chinese online nationalists strongly objected to Wack’s captions, one of which described his goal documenting “life under acute repression among the Uyghur minority alongside the disturbing simultaneous increase of Han-Chinese tourism in the region.” In response, Kodak removed the images from its Instagram page and apologized for any offense they caused.

The U.S. company also issued a statement posted on China’s social media platform WeChat, pledging to “continue to respect the Chinese government” and “keep itself in check.” The move drew accusations that Kodak was committing censorship to please the Chinese Communist Party. Reporter Kurban Niyaz from RFA’s Uyghur Service recently talked with Wack about his experiences in Xinjiang and the Kodak affair. The Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.