Portfolio: Zhang Xiao

China's oating tide of humanity
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The Independent Culture

It is a muggy Sunday afternoon at the Dameisha beach resort in China's Guangdong province, and a knot of clouds has just finished sprinkling rain over a sea filled with day-trippers. That so many are still swimming despite the rain is less striking (it is 36C, after all) than the fact that nearly as many are wearing rubber rings. As with much in China, this is due in no small part to Deng Xiaoping. In 1978, the social reformer designated the nearby city of Shenzhen a Special Economic Zone, and people have ever since flooded in from the country's interior looking for work – and many, who grew up far from the sea, have never had to learn how to float before.

It is this sort of mass social upheaval that prompted the photographer Zhang Xiao to document the changing lives of people along part of China's 18,000km of coastline for his series, "Coast". By shooting on film and hand-printing his photographs, he delivers muted tones that are suggestive of the past – but the content is deliciously of the present: parasailing, for instance, is by no means a widespread activity, but people in Dameisha can try it for RMB30 (£2.80) for 10 minutes. What else would you expect of a region renowned for giving you whatever you want at a knock-down price?

See more of Xiao's work at Derby's Format International Photography Festival from Friday ( formatfestival.com); to buy prints, visit troikaeditions.co.uk

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