“Photography is a form of meditation. Stepping into the world, you are physically very close to people and their emotions, yet, to create meaningful work, you must remain detached. “
Justin crosses borders, mountains and permafrost to tell powerful human stories. He began his career as a Reuters correspondent writing about social and economic issues, where he eventually became head of an eight-person team in Southern China. He is now based in Brussels and is a member of Panos Pictures.
Justin’s background in journalism has continued to inform his current independent work on multidisciplinary photography and video projects for high profile clients including National Geographic, Sunday Times, Stern and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.
Justin joins Sony Global Imaging Ambassadors with a #FutureofCities story on Hebei province in China. The series is part of a larger body of work in which Justin travelled through Chinese cities, meeting people who have been caught up in the communist government’s latest controversial mega-scheme to reshape Chinese society by moving millions of people into newly constructed urban housing.
About / Biography
What inspired you to shoot this story for the #FutureofCities campaign?”
I first reported on China in the late 1990’s as a Beijing-based correspondent for Reuters, writing extensively about the socialist country’s rapid transition to market economy.
The big question at that time was whether a developing country burdened by state-owned behemoths could shed its heavy industry and re-tool millions of laid-off workers to produce consumer gadgets in nimbler setups. China pulled off an economic miracle.
This year, faced with slowing exports, Communist leaders are pushing ahead with a gigantic, historic plan to move 100 million rural residents into towns and cities by the year 2020 in order to boost domestic demand in infrastructure and goods.
These numbers are almost unfathomable, but through the individual farmers swept up by these abrupt changes, I aim to photograph an economic phenomenon shaping the world’s new super power.
Describe the moment you knew photography changed your life
Photography keeps changing my life because it encourages me to step into the world. Each story, situation and subject teaches me something new.
If you could sum up your work in one word or one sentence, what would that be?
Distilling complex geo-political situations into personal, meaningful stories.
Talk to us about your bucket list... what is on the top of that list of things to photograph?
I like to create stories that take in historical contexts, make sense of present geopolitical dynamics, and point to the future. My next project will be similar in scope.
Within that, I try to capture fleeting moments that tell the larger story.
What is the most remarkable person, place or thing you have ever photographed?
A Neo-Nazi who was attacking me and my friend with a stone in eastern Germany.
Give us your thoughts about the Global Imaging Ambassadors programme?
It’s a great opportunity to collaborate with a camera company that is clearly looking into the future and with a group of esteemed photographers who are blazing their own paths.
What is your favourite Sony camera of the moment (explain why)?
The α7S is silent, fast and razor sharp; a fantastic camera.
Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS lens