A photographer has given free funeral portraits to nearly 3,000 elderly people in China’s rural areas.
Photographer Yang Xin discovered that many of the elderly people in the remote villages of Shangluo City in Shaanxi Province lacked a portrait image that could be used in the event of their death.
So since 2017, Yang Xin has taken free funerary photos of more than 3,000 elderly people in the villages.
In Chinese culture, funerary or memorial portraits are used to honor the dead at funerals.
The photographs serve as a vehicle for remembering and respecting deceased loved ones.
But Xin says that taking photos remains a rare and lavish thing in remote villages like those even today.
Despite the popularity of smartphones in the cities in China, many elderly people in rural areas only have home telephones. It is also rare to find a local photo studio.
However, elderly people in rural areas often regret never leaving photos of themselves for their families to remember them by. In fact, their ID cards are the only photos that exist of them.
Xin tells South China Morning Post: “They have a rather positive attitude toward death. They’re not afraid of dying.”
“[But] they are worried that they will be forgotten by their families. That’s why they want a decent photo.”
Their Second Time in Front of Camera
The photographer says the elderly people in these villages were initially distrustful of the project.
Xin tells China Daily: “Many senior villagers were skeptical about this project.
“After they gave it a shot and found that we were taking pictures free of charge, the news spread by word of mouth, and more people got involved,”
The photographer and her volunteers set up a makeshift outdoor photo studio with a red cloth held up as a backdrop for the funeral portraits.
The volunteers also make sure to help any elderly people who may have trouble taking care of their appearance and comb their hair so that they look presentable for their photo.
For many of these elderly people, these funerary portraits will be the second time they have ever faced a camera in their lives — with the first time being when they sat for their photos for their ID cards. So Xin and her volunteers try to make them feel comfortable and at ease for their photoshoot.
The elderly villagers receive their free photos from Xin a few weeks afterward. As part of her service, Xin also holds a special photo exhibition of their portraits in the village squares so that they gather around to discuss their photographs and their lives.