The point where the sea meets the shore is the place where my ancestors lived for generations.
As I remember it from my childhood, the sea creatures were abundant, the seaside villages were simple, and the culture and customs were unique. It was a place where the boat people and land-dwellers of western Guangdong coexisted. For several hundred years, people earned a living “tilling the sea,” and the sea was the “granary” on which they relied.
Prior to the 1970s or 1980s, the fishermen who lived on this piece of shoreline earned their living catching seafood. Those were prosperous days, and they never worried that “tilling the sea” would be fruitless.
In the last twenty or thirty years, with the acceleration of modernization, people began to do whatever they wanted. Overfishing combined with industrial pollution began to destroy the health of our oceans. Fish populations dropped dramatically, and many fish varieties are faced with extinction. The seas on which people had depended for generations were becoming barren. In order to get out of this predicament, the fishermen began to use mechanical instead of manual means to pull up the nets and they replaced their smaller wooden boats with larger steel-hulled ones. Their nets have become longer and the mesh in the nets has become finer. However, the changes in fishing implements did not bring the fishermen sustained prosperity. They became increasingly helpless, impatient, and despairing.
The series “The Sea at a Low Point” focuses on a piece of the Dianbai shoreline in western Guangdong and scenes of life and work for local fishermen. In the last seven years, I have used my camera to approach the depths of the sea and the fishermen working on its surface; I want to get into their minds, attempting to record this process of transformation as a witness as best as possible.
Yes, in my eyes, the ocean is gloomy and sad, accompanied by the dull roar of the waves. Under heaven, the sea is still boundless, and its depths have comforted the earth since time immemorial…