03.04.15
Sara Jamshidi | The Observers

The Observers

The latest book by Chinese artist Xu Yong, Negatives, illustrates through his photographs the peaceful protests of Chinese students prior to the June 1989 uprising and massacre at Tiananmen Square. The book contains reprints of sixty-four previously unseen images from twenty-five years ago that bear witness to, and convey various layers of meaning and insight about, the peaceful protests that led to the massacre. 

To experience the book—which reprints the negative film strips themselves—in a more complex and multi-layered way (to see the positive images and true colors of the photographs), the reader needs to view the book using the camera of his or her smartphone (go to Settings>General>Accessibility>Invert Colors). By reprinting the negatives, the artist emphasizes the mystery of traditional photography and the anticipation in developing film and seeing the final images. “Unlike digital photographs, which can be manipulated, negatives never lie,” said Mr. Xu, in an interview with The New York Times about why he decided to reprint only the negatives. He considers reprinting negatives “direct evidence of the real world’s image,” and as a method to “pose a challenge to objectivity.”  



Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times



Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times








June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. From the book "Negatives". © Xu Yong



June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. From the book "Negatives". © Xu Yong



June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. From the book "Negatives". © Xu Yong




June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. From the book "Negatives". © Xu Yong






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