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Photographer uses WeChat to put lost subjects in the picture

By Tian Xuefei and Zhou Huiying in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-28 07:14

On Sept 5, Wang Feng made contact with the family in a photo he took 20 years ago, only one day after he posted a message on WeChat trying to find them.

The message read: "Please help Wang Feng find the family in this photo shot 20 years ago. Wang, a renowned photojournalist in Heilongjiang province, is suffering from gastric cancer. He hopes to send the original photo to the family."

As the post circulated on WeChat, residents of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, were alerted to the heartwarming story and tried to find information about the family in the photo. "I didn't have high expectations, I just wanted to try," Wang said. "It is unimaginable to find some people in such a huge city with a population of more than 10 million."

However, only two hours after posting the message, Wang was sent the phone number of Zhang Fengyuan, the woman in the photo.

"I remember it was June 24, 1997, about one month after Central Avenue became a commercial pedestrian street," said Wang, 58. "I decided to take some photos on Central Avenue after a gentle rain shower."

Wang saw a young couple carrying their 1-month-old baby in a basket, which was covered by beautiful cloth. "They accepted my request to take photos of them with pleasure. At that time few people would accept such a request from a stranger. Their enthusiasm and kindness made me so excited that I forgot to get their phone number after taking two photos of them," he said. "I didn't even know if the baby was a boy or a girl."

One of the photos was published in Life Daily two days later and it became one of Wang's most celebrated works.

After being diagnosed with gastric cancer at the start of 2015, Wang has seen his health decline despite undergoing five operations. "I often feel stressed, which made me eager to do something meaningful," Wang said.

"The photo shows the city's features well and I wanted to send it to the subjects.

"Furthermore, I wanted to know their current circumstances. I believed they must be living happily due to their smiles and the harmony shown in the photos."

Wang finally got answers to his questions when he met the family.

The baby has become a young woman.

"I am so familiar with the photo," said Sun Baiyi, 20, who is studying psychology in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. "But I never thought I would see the original and meet the photographer."

The mother said: "We keep a copy of the newspaper together with my family's important documents, such as my daughter's admission letter from the university. My husband and I never forgot the photographer.

"I felt shocked when I got the news that he was looking for us, so we decided to visit Wang soon after we got in touch," she added.

"We chose sunflowers as a gift for Wang because they represent sunshine and vitality."

From 1995 to 1997, Wang took tens of thousands of photos on Central Avenue.

"When people recognized themselves when the photos were exhibited, I would send the photo to its real owner," Wang said. "I have received lots of messages expressing gratitude for my recording of beautiful moments, which made me feel quite delighted.

"Now my biggest wish is to find all the photos' owners in my life."

Contact the writers at zhouhuiying@chinadaily.com.cn


Wang Feng gives Sun Baiyi the original photo of Sun and her parents 20 years ago. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 09/28/2017 page7)

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