The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Manchester student aims to connect East and West with Behind Beijing

Architecture student David Adesanya made the most of his opportunity to travel to Beijing with Study China by carrying out this photojournalism project

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A University of Manchester student has set up an exciting photography project to explore the lives and experiences of citizens of Beijing and help people understand a culture so far removed from ours better.

Behind Beijing, “a glimpse into the culture of one of the greatest wonders of the world”, was started by David Adesanya, an Architecture student at the University of Manchester, who travelled to the Chinese capital over Easter on the Study China trip which is funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

David was inspired by the international success of Humans of New York, a photojournalistic series by American photographer Brandon Stanton, who photographs and interviews ordinary people in New York City about their lives, sometimes in intimate detail, and publishes them on Facebook. Since 2010 Stanton has gained 17 million Facebook likes and prompted the creation of many similar ‘Humans of…’ projects by photographers across the world.

David carried out a similar process, interviewing people on the street with the help of a native translator whom he met whilst in Beijing, and taking their photograph. “It’s very simple—it’s clear and honest. You ask a question and detail exactly what they say. There’s no Photoshop or editing,” he says.

He hopes that his work can connect people from the polarised cultures of West and East in the age of instant social media—often derided as making us more antisocial and disconnected from one another.

“I find it quite interesting that we live in the West and there’s so much going on in the East. They have completely different traditions and live completely different lives to us. It’s great to discover and uncover these differences, but also to see the parallels”, says Adesanya.

“In this age we seem to have become disconnected due to an increase in social media, so being able to connect through this project is amazing—it shows a form of hope. Creating connections is what drew me to it.”

The Study China programme offers British students the unique chance to live and learn in China. Students attend university to learn Mandarin and Chinese culture as well as going on excursions, and return home with a qualification and experiences not previously available to many.

Behind Beijing launches at midnight on Sunday the 1st of May. You can sign up to be notified at the project’s launch on the website, as well as following Behind Beijing on Facebook and Twitter.