專訪徐勇——記錄六四的中國攝影師
向中國政府投擲的深水炸彈:20張底片,提出六四事件最真切證據
攝影

2019年,天安門事件發生30年後,中國社會的政治空氣更加壓抑,人們之間不要說公開交流,連私下都極少去談論。即使是「30」這樣一個整數年到來,年輕一代有很多人選擇不去關心那場轟轟烈烈的事件,更多人甚至不知情。但65歲的攝影師徐勇不同,他在過去幾年,以一本紀錄天安門影像的攝影集,就像投擲一顆深水炸彈,從底片的物質性存在,向北京政府提出最真切的證據。

2014年12月,長居在北京的攝影藝術家徐勇,透過香港新世紀出版社發行了一本攝影集《NEGATIVES》(底片),內容是他壓藏多年的天安門事件影像。
天安門事件發生時,35歲的徐勇剛離開北京最大廣告公司的攝影師工作,中國社會也剛從10年的文化大革命(1966年~1976年)中復甦起來,改革開放的思潮逐漸匯集,天安門廣場原本單純的胡耀邦逝世追悼會,變成學生與民眾陳抗聚會。徐勇也深受感染,帶著粗重的相機,經常到現場去拍照記錄,還曾經為了捕捉好一點的鏡頭,多次站到單車上,結果跌了下來。在他鏡頭前面的青年們,是一個個懷抱理想與熱血、憂慮與期盼的面容。
這次《報導者》透過電子郵件,與人在北京的徐勇進行訪談,同時在《報導者》披露一組新作《NEGATIVES・SCAN》。這個作品是在2014年《NEGATIVES》發表4年之後,徐勇於2018年製作的。這次的作品,作為基礎材料的膠片與當年天安門事件影像是同一批,但挑選的影像內容則不盡相同,新作相比原來的《NEGATIVES》,保留了完整35mm膠片輪廓,還保留了滾筒式掃描工藝和膠片局部氧化變色的痕跡,充分強調膠片影像的物理性質,限縮了影像負片內容的表現空間。這組影像除了在今年(2019)2月至3月間,應德國漢堡大學漢學系之邀,在漢堡中央圖書館舉行過展覽外,尚未以其他方式發表過。
《NEGATIVES・SCAN》系列(照片提供/徐勇)

用底片,向中國當局的隱瞞發出挑戰

徐勇對於新作的思考,是從《NEGATIVES》那本攝影集出版後不久開始的。徐勇表示,傳統攝影的敘事性與當代攝影的概念性好比兩個相交的圓,相交重疊部分的面積不同,則呈現作者思考、價值判斷的不同。
《NEGATIVES》系列因客觀政治環境和時間因素,負片呈現和數位設備反轉觀看
在新版IOS裝置(iPhone或iPad)上設置——「一般功能」下的「輔助使用」選項下選「顯示器調節」、「反相顏色」、「經典反相」——通過攝像頭,你就可以看到徐勇的底片沖洗後的模樣。
,也許是成功的觀念傳達,但畫面內容的佔比,和影像秩序的編排,更多的顯現了徐勇個人對事件的情感立場和作品的敘事性。
新作品《NEGATIVES・SCAN》則是試圖弱化他作為作者的主觀立場和敘事,突顯作品的概念性,使得新舊作品避免重複,更是對官方遮蔽和製造遺忘歷史態度提供更強烈的證據:「底片及其影像的物質性存在,作為事實依據,無法人為遮蔽篡改,並且隨時間移轉證明了更多的意義。」徐勇為這組新作寫下了自己的立場與觀點。
前後兩個「底片」系列作品的偶然性在於,天安門事件的大量照片當年已廣泛在世界上公開,但在中國,超過四分之一世紀後它們還不能正常發表,卻是現實。不要說影像遭到官方封鎖屏蔽,連相關字詞也遭株連,出版這樣一批禁忌的影像,徐勇從不直接談論影像內容,在他的考量中,底片那無法更改的物質性與證據性是他思考的最優先,內容是其次。
《NEGATIVES》全書中沒有一張流血的衝突畫面,最後僅以一張坦克清場的天安門收尾,該頁的騎縫處標記著「64」頁碼;而這次《報導者》收到的《NEGATIVES・SCAN》共有20張新作,最後一張是舊版沒有的天安門清場大景,倒數第二張則是一群士兵舉著槍對著牽單車的兩名民眾,從這樣的安排我們似乎可以嗅到徐勇的意念。
《NEGATIVES・SCAN》系列(照片提供/徐勇)

寄回國內的攝影集,都被沒收了

天安門事件攝影之後,徐勇進行了他的《胡同101像》拍攝計畫,這個計畫源自於1985年他為美國一家電視台拍攝「中國畫」專題片裡的胡同鏡頭開始。執行時間落在了天安門事件剛結束的1989年6月下旬,他內心情緒受到事件很大的影響,那時北京市內氣氛一片沉寂,徐勇個人也因此有了大量空餘時間。
《胡同101像》是文革後中國的第一本個人專題性攝影集,序言講了關於一條胡同的美麗傳說,構思和編排方式,來自他在北京廣告公司拍攝電視專題片的經驗,鏡頭選擇避免攝影類型學,圖像編排注重翻閱者的意識與流動。胡同原本充滿人聲而熱鬧,他卻刻意排除了鏡頭中所有的人,到了最後,第101張拍攝雜院裡的三代一家人時,他採用了他們以肅穆眼神望向鏡頭的肖像照片。《胡同101像》後來由日本的新潮社和平凡社先後出了日本版。
作為一件整體的作品,《胡同101像》或有預先的架構設計、觀念性思考;相對地,天安門事件中的攝影,徐勇都是對現場的紀錄。但與在場的西方攝影記者不同,他是本地人,他必須承認情感立場對自己觀看和拍攝的影響。由於受到現代攝影、經典攝影和廣告公司專業攝影的影響,徐勇當時著重攝影的畫面感,之於當時將攝影作為信息傳播媒介,把公眾知情權作為最重要責任的紀錄攝影者,他認為這不是好的價值觀。另外,那時彩色底片一卷的價格,相當於普通北京民眾三分之一個月的工資,他必須相當有自律地去按快門,注重每張照片的質量,每個場景的拍攝最多2、3張。如果事件發生在今天,徐勇說他的攝影記錄方式會很不一樣。這或許也反過來說明,古典攝影觀看的意義,已終結於上個世紀90年代數位攝影的興起。
問到徐勇是否看過自己出版的攝影集及近況,他表示手邊有2014年出版、及後來德國、法國出版的《NEGATIVES》攝影集,是自己到香港、或託付好朋友路過香港時,每次3、4本,一次一次帶回來的,通過北京機場海關還要小心謹慎。一開始他也試過從國外用聯邦快遞郵寄,但都被海關沒收了。
由於攝影集發行當時有不少國外媒體報導,「官方(指中國當局)知道我的這本《NEGATIVES》,在他們眼裡我應該是異類,但還好,沒有找我太大的麻煩。在國內,這本攝影集也只能給可以信任的好朋友看看。」

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Louder than Bombs: The Photo Negatives Exposing the Truth of the Tiananmen Square Protests

Words by Yu Chih-Wei The English translation is cooperated with The Taiwan Gazette and is simultaneously published on its website.
Thirty years after students rushed into Tiananmen Square to demand greater democratic accountability, the political atmosphere in contemporary Chinese society is more oppressed than ever, and people err on the side of caution when talking about the historic event in public or private. In fact, for many young people in China, the student protests that lead to the crackdown on June 4th are of no concern to them, or they're simply not aware of the event's existence.
65-year-old photographer Xu Yong (徐勇) wants to change that. Over the past few years, he's collected two series of Tiananmen Square images he captured at the time. Xu has compared this curation process to a deep, underwater explosion : these images lay dormant in the public's subconscious, and by exhibiting these photo negatives 30 years later, they send ripples of truth to the surface.
Fill 1
In December 2014, Xu Yong, a photographer based in Beijing, put together a photobook of film negatives he captured during the infamous Tiananmen Square protests. He held off publishing the images for years.
On the eve of the 1989 protests, Xu was a 35-year-old photographer who just left a prime position at Beijing's largest advertising agency.
Chinese society was still recovering from the decade-long Cultural Revolution, and the ideological trends of Deng Xiaoping's (鄧小平) "Reform and Opening Up" were finally taking hold. The students who first gathered in Tiananmen Square were only there to commemorate the death of Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦) , a former general secretary who staked out a position as a reformer within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But the gathering soon morphed into a full-on student protest movement.
Xu Yong was deeply affected by the protests. He took his bulky camera to the square, and captured images of young faces full of idealism and high hopes, as well as ardor and anxiety.
With the help of Hong Kong's New Century Press, the photo negatives resurfaced in a photobook called Negatives. In a recent interview with The Reporter in Beijing, Xu disclosed a new series of photo negatives to publish : "Negatives/Scan".
In this new collection, the film stock and the content appear to become one, and the images retain the complete 35mm film roll outline, as well as traces of local oxidation and discolouration from the film washing process. In effect, the physical properties of the film are fully emphasized and the performance space of the content is limited.
The images were first shown at an exhibition at the Hamburg Central Library at the invitation of the University of Hamburg's Department of Chinese Languages and Culture.
Negative/Scan. (Photo by Xu Yong)

Using film negatives to challenge censorship

Xu began thinking about a new series shortly after publishing Negatives. He says the narrative nature of traditional photography and the conceptual nature of contemporary photography are like two intersecting circles. When the circles overlap, they show the artist's different modes of thinking and values.
Because factors like time and the political environment in China are changing how we view the Tiananmen Square protests, using inverse colours and digital tools on our computers and phones could be a way to break through those barriers.
Xu recommends viewers to look at the Negatives/Scan series from their computer, and use their mobile phone as a decoder to invert the photo negatives to a standard colour scheme. If you use an iPhone, head over to Settings, choose "general" then "accessibility" and select "display accommodations". Under "Invert colours", tap the "classic invert" slider, then select the camera function to view the photos.
The image proportions and picture order of Negatives/Scan say much about Xu Yong's feelings towards Tiananmen Square and the narrative nature of his work. The series is an attempt to weaken his subjective viewpoint and highlight the conceptual nature of the pictures. Old images seem new, and help to expose the government's attempt to cover-up the event and erase history.
"The fact that these negatives physically exist can't be obscured or altered, and their value has only proved more significant over time," says Xu.
Photos of the protests were seen everywhere in 1989, but they rarely saw the light of day in China. Even publishing words related to the Tiananmen Square protests could lead to criminal liability. In publishing these taboo images, Xu doesn't directly address the content of the images, but deliberates on how to deliver the immutable qualities of these images.
The bloody conflict of the Tiananmen Square massacre does not appear in Negatives, and only the final image of a tank clearing up the square on the last page—ominously marked as "page 64"— portends the end of the student movement. In Negatives/Scan, the penultimate image also points to a menacing end for the protesters, with a group of soldiers pointing guns at two unarmed men with a bicycle. Xu doesn't hide any implicit messages in these photos.
Negative/Scan. (Photo by Xu Yong)

Confiscated on the way back to China

After photographing the events of Tiananmen Square, Xu went back to a project he began in 1985 — Hutong 101. By the end of June 1989, there was an oppressive silence in Beijing, which affected Xu's mood while shooting the series. He was inspired by his former work at an advertising agency for the series, and his images scrupulously avoid typology, and the focus is on consciousness and flow.
Hutong's are normally full of hustle and bustle, but he deliberately leaves people out of his shot. In the book's final image, he presents a three generation family in a Hutong courtyard, with their solemn eyes staring straight into the camera lens.
Hutong 101 was one of the first collections of contemporary personal photography in China after the Cultural Revolution, and was serialized in Japan by two of the country's most venerable publishing houses.
While Hutong 101 features some clear structural and conceptual thinking, Xu's work on Tiananmen Square is all about recording the events of the protest. Xu was quite different from the foreign photojournalists at the scene; he was a local taking photos, and he brought a different set of emotions and sensibilities to his work. Xu doesn't believe that photography is solely a medium to communicate information, and he used his training in traditional, modern and advertising photography techniques to bring out different aspects of the Tiananmen Square protests.
In addition, at the time, the price of a colour film roll was equivalent to one-third the monthly salary of an ordinary worker in Beijing. He needed considerable self-discipline to press the shutter button, and would only take two to three quality shots for each scene. If the Tiananmen Square protests happened today, Xu says his photo-taking style would be quite different.
Xu attended two exhibitions of Negatives in Germany and France in 2014, and photo books were published in preparation for those events. When he goes to Hong Kong (or entrusts a friend to go) to pick up newly printed copies of the photobooks, he tries to bring back three or four copies back to Beijing with him. He has to be extremely careful when he passes through the airport though. He's tried to send books via Fedex, but they were all confiscated by customs.
"The Chinese authorities know about my photo exhibitions. They probably think I'm some weirdo, but overall, I don't get into too much trouble," says Xu.
"In China, I can only give these photo books book to friends I really trust."

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