I’ve documented human narratives, the stories of a generation working to resolve its interests amid an atmosphere of cultural conflict. Modern China is a society suspended in the struggle between old and new – between poverty and opulence, mahjong and hip-hop, arranged marriages and homosexuality. I’ve illuminated these disparities to show the emotional and cultural specificity of the One-Child generation. Their cultural location on the global map is unique historically, as will be their role in that map’s future.
Almost thirty years after its inception, the effects of China’s Planned Birth Policy can be seen in a generation of young people struggling with the tides of history. Those born since the law’s enactment in 1979 have come of age watching their country develop into a modern, industrial and economic superpower. But they have also experienced first-hand the consequences of state sanctioned population control: an isolated generation of single children and a fundamental restructuring of the traditional family unit. Now reaching adulthood in great numbers, China’s One-Child generation must shoulder the responsibility of tending to their aging parents as they adapt to an ever-changing social landscape. Their legacy is one of new freedoms and expanded opportunity, internationalization and a shifting cultural identity. But within this climate of social liberalization, China’s youth are still haunted by recent history and the burdens of tradition.
RIAN DUNDON is a freelance photographer and writer based in China and New York. He was born in Portland, Oregon in 1980. After earning a B.F.A. in Photography and Imaging from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he lived in central China’s Hunan province from 2005 to 2008. In 2007, Dundon was awarded the Tierney Foundation Fellowship to help fund his project on youth culture in China, which was exhibited at the 2008 New York Photo Festival and the 2007 Angkor Photography Festival in Cambodia. In 2006, he was selected for the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographers. Dundon’s photographs and writings have been published and commissioned by Time, Stern, The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle, amongst many others, and his commercial clients include the International Center for Photography, Rocawear Clothing, and the City of Newark. For more information, please visit: http://www.riandundon.com. This portfolio of images from Rian Dindon’s series ‘Between Love and Duty: Chinese Youth Culture’, first appeared in Seesaw Magazine.