The photographs of Zhou Yan, who witnessed and documented the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, are on display through Dec. 4 at the Kendal Gallery.
Yan was a lecturer at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in downtown Beijing, where he received a master’s degree in art history. The academy was a 15-minute walk to Tiananmen Square.
The photographs he took at that time recorded mostly activities by the school’s students and faculty prior to the June 4 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators. Death toll estimates have ranged from hundreds to thousands.
CAFA students spent four days and three nights creating a 30-foot-tall sculpture called the Goddess of Democracy, unveiled on the square on May 30, 1989. Yan’s photos captured this and also students painting banners, addressing the crowd, the demonstrations, the student hunger strike, and confrontations between citizens and troops.
“The memory of these events is inscribed on my heart and can never be erased,” he said. “It was the greatest political movement in the history of the People’s Republic of China, and I witnessed and participated in it. All of my photographs were developed and enlarged after I came to the United States – and have become my lifetime treasure. Every time I look at them, I am moved, as the history remains as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday.”
The Kendal at Oberlin show is dedicated to Arn Lewis, who was a friend of Yan’s for many years. Lewis organized an exhibit of these photographs in his gallery at the College of Wooster in 1999. After moving to Kendal at Oberlin, he introduced Yan to members of the Kendal art committee and recommended that they show these works.
The gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.