David Handley

Children in Beijing

The images are an observation of the political status in China regarding its restrictions, in particular the 'One-Child Policy'. The photographs show the value of the children, being an only child, as they are lavishly dressed by their parents. Their unique fashion sense and outfits are a way of showing society, as well as the children, that freedom of expression is acceptable.

The story is an illustration of the cultural differences between the eastern and western societies and the underlying messages that can be conveyed through fashion.

The People's Republic of China is the most populated country in the world and is governed by the Communist Party of China, the world's largest political party. The Cultural Revolution and subsequent reforms in the 1970's saw the personal freedom, taken for granted in western society, severely restricted for the Chinese. One of these restraints is the 'One Child' Policy. A rule unimaginable in the west, it is seemingly a necessity in China due to overpopulation, especially in urban areas. This has created problems such as a 'Son Preference'. Sons provide a better social and financial support for their families. Once married, daughters become primarily part of the groom's family. Therefore girls become less desirable, which can lead to either abortion or abandonment. A single child naturally becomes more precious which can lead to parents becoming more protective and overindulgent. Also children with no siblings can result in a lack of communication and social skills and added pressure to excel in school. Whilst in Beijing I became aware of an almost political statement through children's fashion. Parents dressed their young children in a way that showed a strong element of self expression. Each child I witnessed wore a unique outfit put together in a creative individual manner which conveyed to me an expression of freedom and individuality, communicated through the newest generation. This also sends a simple but strong message that conforming is not compulsory. The photographs in this series are a study that embrace this statement and are images captured in and around perhaps the most iconic political landmark in China, Tiananmen Square.

Using Format