Lu Nan (吕楠), unrivaled in his capacity to capture and reveal human dignity and the poignancy of the human condition, is one of the most respected photographers in China today. After working for China Pictorial (人民画报) for five years, he worked as an independent photographer to produce three series that made his international reputation. The second of these, which documents the lives of Catholics in rural China, includes pictures taken between 1992 and 1996. Many were have been featured in exhibits around the world and have been published in the volume On the Road (在路上).
On The Road has been published in the United States by Ignatius Press and is available for purchase below. Copies will be given to USCCA Benefactors. Learn more about becoming a Benefactor here.
ON THE ROAD
From 1992 to 1996, Lu Nan photographed On the Road—The Catholic Faith in China. This photo essay sprang almost spontaneously from an earlier project begun in 1989: The Forgotten People—Living Conditions of China’s Psychiatric Patients. As Lu Nan himself relates, “The final photograph in The Forgotten People was taken in a church, showing a priest as he gave a blessing to a mentally ill church member. The moment I took that photo, I knew that my second project would be Catholicism…”
During the period when Lu Nan shot On the Road, he visited over 100 church buildings. However, the emphasis of his photographic journey is on how love and faith are practiced in the everyday life of the believers. His aim is to show that inner divinity is imbued in the everyday life of these believers, and that their time on earth is but a tempering trajectory: Through enduring the trials of life’s fortunes and mishaps, they are able to find true values in divine grace.
Together with a third study, Four Seasons—Everyday Life of Tibetan Peasants, The Forgotten People and On the Road constitute a trilogy and a reflection on the human condition in suffering, the journey of sanctification, and the attainment of peace. The China Association has publishing On the Road because its mission involves the promotion of friendship and opportunities to learn from one another as fellow travelers in the journey of faith. We Catholics, both Western and Chinese, cannot help to be impressed by the seamless way that the subjects of Lu Nan’s photography integrate their faith and their identity.
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LIFE JOURNEYING ON
THE ROAD TO HEAVEN
Included in the new edition of On the Road, is an an English translation of the essay, "Life Journeying on the Road to Heaven" by Li Xianting. Below is a brief excerpt:
It was Lu Nan who named this collection of photographs On the Road. After I viewed these 60 photographs, I understood his sentiments. In most photography of religious subjects, other photographers either shoot church buildings or religious celebrations. In fact, Lu Nan has visited more than 100 churches himself. Some large ones surprised him. For example, in a small village in Shanxi where there were only 2,000 odd parishioners, they themselves raised the funds to build a glazed tile church which combined Chinese and Western architecture. It is 65 meters high, 65 meters long, and 24 meters wide—all without a single internal supporting column. According to Lu Nan, its construction is a seeming miracle. Those very church members provided the brick and tile, and they contributed their labor, all out of devotion. What is the power that makes these congregants so lovingly dedicated to this religious cause? It is faith.
1989 - 1990: The Forgotten People: The Condition of China’s Psychiatric Patients.
1996 - 2004: Four Seasons: Everyday Life of Tibetan Peasants.
2006: Started to photograph Prisons of North Burma.
Mother and daughter. Xigaze, about 300 kilometers west of Lhasa, in the Himalaya Mountains. Tibet. 2001. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos
One-and-a-half-year-old daughter serves sentence with her mother. Burma. 2006. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos
An 11-year-old girl in the Beijing Psychiatric Hospital. Due to a lack of children's wards, China's most juvenile sufferers have to be kept together with adult patients. Rather than taking care of such children, the adult patients may even beat them. Beijing, China. 1989. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos
Old woman boiling tea at harvest-time. Tibet. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos