Photos of Their Youth

“In spite of that, only one or two people among the young people I photographed left Beijing, most of them are still here, including me,” said Tian He. He admitted that almost every young person who comes to settle in a big city like Beijing or Shanghai is torn between two choices if the move does not live up to their expectations: stay in the big city or return home. Most of them stay. Tian He wanted to record the faces and inner worlds of these young people who keep fighting for their dreams.

 Jing Jing, born in 1986 in Changchun City of Jilin Province, graduated with a degree in Human Resources from Beijing Jiaotong University. After staying in Beijing for three-and-a-half years, she finally decided to leave and reunite with her family.

Never Stop Exploring

“My overall understanding of the generation born in the 1980s is that they grew up with dreams shaped by movies and TV shows. They value their own thoughts and expect much from the world. However, because of factors such as family background, economic status and personal capability, most of them are unsatisfied with their situations after entering the real world. They feel lost between the ideal and reality, and complain a lot. The problem for them now is that they have a series of practical problems to face – marriage, having a child, buying an apartment and a car – when they are still unable to fulfill their own dreams,” said Tian He. Moreover, the rising generation born in the 1990s is beginning to gain a foothold in society. This aggravates the pressure on the post-1980s generation and makes them feel their dreams are slipping further and further out of reach.

Seeking out a suitable job and professional development are among the most common desires of the young people photographed by Tian He. Shen Meng from Shanghai is one such dreamer. In 2006, she went to Australia to study, under the fever of emigration, soon after taking the national university entrance examination. Shen wanted to study hospitality management but her father disagreed with her choice, believing that course of study was better suited to young men. So, Shen settled for a major in accounting and finance instead. Later, due to changes in Australia’s immigration policy, Shen had to return to Shanghai, where she found a sales job at a finance company. When Tian He took her photo, Shen had been employed for two months. But, she had already begun to reconsider her career choice. “The weight of interpersonal relationships in domestic society is too much; it wears me out,” she said. In fact, rarely a day goes by when she doesn’t think about her initial dream of studying hospitality management.

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