Family in the frame

Updated: 2013-12-05 09:14

By Wu Ni (China Daily)

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Family in the frame

Lu Defu takes pictures of 92-year-old Gu Yingnan's family with 24 members across four generations. Photos Provided to China Daily

When Lu Defu set out to take photos of elderly people with their families, he did not think it would be a great challenge. But he soon found that changing lifestyles have made family reunions a rare event. Wu Ni reports from Shanghai.

Photographer Lu Defu, 67, did not think it would be a major challenge to take family photos of more than 30 large families whose eldest members were in their 80s or 90s.

Family in the frame

Canada connection 

Family in the frame

Marriage of a life time 

He set himself the goal in October 2012 to take the pictures of families in his hometown of Xinchang in Pudong New Area, but more than one year on, he has managed to take photos of only 12 families.

"I did not expect that it would be so difficult for all the family members to get together, even when they all live in Shanghai," he says. He adds that in most cases, the elderly were eager to take a family photo but the younger generations were not as passionate about the idea.

Big families with four for five generations living under one roof were traditionally regarded as lucky and prosperous. However, as extended families break up with the country's dash to modernity, younger generations have moved out to live in new communities or apartments, leaving the elderly living by themselves or with one of their sons.

Lu became fascinated with photography after he retired from his job at Xinchang's broadcasting station in 2007.

The most prominent part of Xinchang is a millennium-old water town with more than 55 percent of the architecture from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties and the early 20th century.

Lu first focused on photographing the ancient water town's stone-arched bridges and old houses. But an incident in 2010 made him turn his lens toward the elderly residents of the town.

"I was attending a wedding banquet and I took my camera. It was hilarious when the bride arrived and firecrackers crackled. I saw a few old women in the crowd watch the scene. I asked whether they would like to be photographed, they happily agreed," he recalls.

These elderly women told Lu that they had never posed for color photos and the only chance for them to be photographed was when they applied for their identity card. It reminded Lu that most older people in the town might not have a decent color photo of themselves.

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