A special series of articles about ordinary people living in Swatow, written by students from Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism
by Lv Shanshan
Bustling with traffic and pedestrians, Little Park, an older district of Shantou, was busy as usual on a recent winter day. “Drawing, Photography, Video”—A red signboard stood on the first floor of Wang Yulong’s shop. Starting as a self-taught painter, then a sent-down youth, a photographer and a business owner, Wang’s life path had been closely linked with China’s rapid changes.
Wang was born in 1945 when China’s communists were gaining momentum to establish power.
In his childhood Wang learned paintings through observation and daily practice by himself, and firmed his own way of drawing gradually. Then as a teenager he became a painter of some note in Little Park.
In 1970, Wang was sent to work in the countryside as an educated urban youth, responding to the call of Chairman Mao.
Wang often has Kong-fu tea and makes jokes with his neighbours when he is free.
“It was a rough time and I was supported only by spirit,” said Wang, taking off his glasses and polishing them on his white shirt.
For lack of physical strength, Wang failed his crop, owing about 200 yuan to the production team per year. Many times he did not have enough to eat.
Therefore, Wang decided to make a living by drawing portraits for peasants of other villages secretly, which was not allowed by the production team.
Drawing, which required several days to finish a work, was too slow for Wang. Hearing from his friends, Wang learned that Shantou Department Store had a new batch of cameras costing only 8 yuan each. He got one and began his photography career taking photos for the peasants.
“Sometimes farmers only gave me eggs or sweet potatoes for the photo, but I did not mind it at all,” said Wang.
Soon afterwards, the production team confiscated Wang’s camera and treated Wang as a capitalist roader. In the following 10 years, Wang had been constantly monitored.
When the reform and opening-up policies were implemented in 1980s, Wang got himself free and returned to the city.
Without any money, he made a living by drawing and taking photos for people on street. To get more business, Wang taught himself other artistic crafts, such as carving, signboards making, calligraphy and so on.
Meanwhile, he continued to refine his photography technique, for instance, setting up lighting and background individually, trying his best to satisfy the customers. In this way his business became prosperous.
In 1996, Wang started to learn computer, leading the pack among his competitors. Reciting the instruction book every night, consulting the technical personnel again and again, Wang learned to operate the computer skillfully.
“The computer crashed frequently. I had to get it fixed 28 times in the first month,” Wang said with a laugh.
In the same year, Wang opened Fuhe Photography Shop. Two years later, Wang bought an 8,000 yuan digital camera in Hong Kong through his friends. Then Fuhe Photography Shop became the first one to process digital photos by computer, which was about 8 to 10 years earlier than its peers.
Many photography shops in downtown Shantou, Jieyang, Chenghai and other adjacent towns ask Wang for help and send him their ticklish photos.
“Like a hospital, I hope it can relieve the difficulty and anxiety for its clients,” said Wang.
Article reproduced by kind permission of Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism.
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