Guest post: Coronavirus in Beijing by Pierre Alivon

Pierre Alivon 苏 善 书, I am an artist photographer, sculptor and curator. I have been living in China for over 4 years. I will try to share my experience and my feelings with you during the month of February. The worst solitude is not to be alone but to be bored with yourself. The time of confinement in my house does not matter, only life is important to me, for that I left to discover the streets of Beijing abandoned by the excitement of the crowd.

I had a unique experience or I learned that loneliness does not exist. This event was a way of confronting myself and finally realizing that we are never alone since we have in us the human feeling and that we are surrounded by a swarm of life which was difficult to explore with the city’s crowded streets. We do not have the same feeling in the face of loneliness, Forced loneliness is a very strange thing. It invades you, immediately and without making any noise, sit by your side at all times. The protective mask does not accompany daily, tightening my face with each breath it makes me feel alive. My first outing was when Pekin was in the snow.

I left with my Leica M camera to capture this incredible period. My first vision is the color black is white with no smell (because of the mask) with a magic silence. I have rarely paid attention to the complexity of the odor sensations that live in me like emotions and memories, which intervenes in behaviors like fear, pleasure or memory. What was magical and at the same time disturbing was the echo of the “beeping” of the traffic lights that rang out in the street, as in the disaster movies. No footprints in the snow, only the sound of my steps stopping this silence. It was not the first step on the moon but with my mask, my gloves is a white horizon, I felt on the lunar ground … I often complain about the noises that we undergo on a daily basis, especially in the city: car traffic, works, metro, etc. without the noise of urban life I discover another face of the city, which allows me to be more attentive to details like the trees, the breath of the wind, the perspective of the streets etc.

Staying alone at home allowed me to have time to talk to my Chinese friends because they too had time. During this period I wanted to express my emotions through an artistic object. I have been working on a new sculpture that I have called “metamorphosis” which will express the metamorphosis of each Chinese into a hero and be all united in combating the epidemic. I am also preparing for June an exhibition with my artist friends on the theme of the fraternity “Difficult times, united”.

I was impressed when I discovered that the city’s cleaning services, public transport, delivery men continue to work with dignity and courage. I went to Tian’Anmen Square where I threw the only visitor, a unique moment alone in front of the history of the forbidden city and the portrait of Mao; the police were very surprised to see me is they behaving your friendly with me.

I would like to pay tribute to all the people who kept their calm, their dignity during this difficult period and everything is hero invisible like the people of the hospital service who gave their lives for the community. I am proud to live in China and to love China.

From the original article published at China Daily:

Pierre Alivon has been living in Beijing for 5 years, these photographs were taken from February 1 to February 16, 2020 with his Leica M10 / 35 summicron and M240 / 18 Super-Elmar.

Tranquility arguably ranks among Beijingers’ most sought-after luxuries as the metropolis always buzzes with energy.
But the coronavirus outbreak starting in late January has temporarily put a halt on life in Beijing. Then tranquility descends upon the Chinese capital as millions hide in a cocoon of comfort, boredom, as well as anxiety in their homes.

Few can really have the chance to see a rare side of the big city. Pierre Alivon, a photographer from Paris, is among the few who are free from the runaway cabin fever and he set out to capture Beijing’s street scenes in a fresh light.

Despite the risks, the photographer sticks to a daily routine – carrying his Leica to shoot in the streets, hoping to “make a daily report of life in Beijing”, a project he’s been doing since September 2015, one month after he moved to China.

“These days with this silence, very few people are circulating in the streets, as if the Beijing dragon fell asleep,” Alivon said.

In one of Alivon’s photos, Sanlitun, one of the capital’s most dazzling fashion and lifestyle quarters, has also temporally shed its hustle and bustle — shoppers are few and far between, with the towering glass and steel department stores standing against the azure sky.

Aside from the city’s amplified magnitude and also bleak street scenes in the time of the coronavirus outbreak, Alivon also captured those souls that are working to keep the city on track.

Through his lens, delivery boys braved the snow riding their electric scooters around the city to make sure hungry stomachs are filled in time; sanitation workers toiled away on the roads to clear away the snow and keep the streets tidy; medical workers walked in a grave and hasty manner to hospitals.

“I’m impressed with all the Chinese who are taking risks for the community – those who continue to work for public transportation, food supply and especially those who work in the hospital environment – so that people can live properly in their cities,” the photographer said.

Regarding street photography as the crossroads between reportage photography and humanist photography, the Parisian said his photographic work is a testimony to his life in Beijing. Meanwhile, his work, though personal, “depicts a social reality, testifies to the times,” the photographer declared.

On his recent visit home in Paris, the French noted there is a climate of fear now in Europe toward the population of Chinese people who live there.

“I feel very sad about that. In this difficult time, I am a Chinese citizen and I am proud to love China,” the French man said.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here. Previous guest posts by Pierre Alivon:

A foot in Tibet: the Labrang Monastery

Beijing bodybuilders

Beijing diary with the Leica MP 240 by Pierre Alivon

Israel in the summer


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