As the 1980s end with The Independent and the Hulton Getty Picture Collection's '98 For '98, one child's uncertain smile is a mirror to the boat people's future. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees fled to the shores of neighbouring countries to avoid persecution. In 1989, Vietnam agreed to take back the Boat People, but on 13 December, the clandestine nature of Hong Kong's deportation of 51 Vietnamese boat people caused an international outcry. The Hong Kong government insisted force had not been used and the operation was temporarily suspended.

There didn't seem much chance of a united world in the decade to come. On 9 June, China's People's Liberation Army turned on their own people when students in Beijing held a pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square. The army opened fire with armoured vehicles smashing through barricades. The Avenue of Eternal Peace was turned into a place of death for 26 people, and as soldiers swept through the capital firing indiscriminately, thousands more were brutally massacred or injured. The voice of another protest looked to take on the whole world, when thousands of Iranians began chanting "Death to England, Death to America" over the Salman Rushdie affair. Rushdie's passage in Satanic Verses was said to blaspheme against Islam because it had prostitutes play-act as wives of the prophet Mohammed. The Ayatollah Khomeini imposed a fatwa, or death sentence, on Rushdie. With a $1m price on his head.

However, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall on 10 November offered hope, Margaret Thatcher calling it a "great day for freedom". And, in fields around Britain some found their own kind of freedom, dancing until dawn, fuelled by the drug Ecstasy. The acid house culture engendered a hippy philosophy of peace and love well into the next decade, and though worries were expressed about the drug-taking, it would prove hard to stop the children smiling.

Photo 98 is a series of high profile national events and exhibitions, for information contact 01484 559 8788 The current exhibition, 'The Unexplained Part 1: Weird World', looks at unexplained phenomena, from flying saucers to the imprint of the Turin Shroud. At the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Exile, Upper Parkgate, Little Germany, Bradford, BD1 5BJ (01274 203 300).

Jennifer Rodger