Lu Guang (1961, Yongkang) is a photographer whoinvestigates the impact of rapid industrialisation on human lives in China today. Through his photojournalistic case studies of subjects such as open-pit coal mining, the SARS epidemic, communities living with pollution, chemical waste and contaminated water, he reveals the suffering of the earth and the people, particularly workers and the poor. With its potent use of composition and colour, Lu’s work is both expressive and intensely engaging, drawing us in so powerfully that it creates personal involvement and response.
Maintaining his independence by funding his investigative projects within a minimal budget from his small photo laboratory business, Lu Guang approaches each subject with a sustained depth that enables him to capture rare moments and unprecedented images. His series on the Dalian oil spill (2010) includes painful and unforgettable scenes of two firefighters desperately struggling to stay afloat in the oily waters and the tragic death of firefighter Zhang Liang.
By making visible what is usually covered up, Lu Guang opens a critical public space in which issues can be scrutinised and changed. Shared on the internet and hotly debated on Chinese twitter, his images have inspired people to act and forced authorities in China to take action on several occasions. For example, the public outcry following publication of his portraits of peasant farmers, who had been encouraged to sell blood to pay for fertilizer and due to unsafe procedures contracted HIV/AIDS, resulted in the responsible authorities providing the care and treatment the farmers had previously been refused.
Lu Guang is honoured for showing people the truth through his moving photographic testimony on hidden human tragedies and devastated environments; for his astute use of fine aesthetics, compelling narratives and digital media to activate public response and compel authorities to take remedial action; for his courage, integrity and sustained commitment to tackling sensitive issues in a difficult context; and for demonstrating the powerful role of photography as a medium for social change.