The Best Cultural Revolution Photos You’ll See Today

The NY Times’s photography blog, Lens, has just published 20 stunning pictures from the Cultural Revolution, a “panoramic view” that includes Little Red Books, an execution, and an elongated dunce cap. The images were taken by Harbin photojournalist Li Zhensheng, “perhaps the most complete and nuanced pictorial account of the decade of turmoil ignited by Mao Zedong,” says NYT.

That is where he did his life’s work documenting the Cultural Revolution, taking the “positive” propaganda images of masses whipped up in revolutionary fervor for the newspaper, and also the “negative,” more nuanced, questioning pictures. He snipped those frames off his film and hid them under the parquet floorboards of his house until the revolution ended. He did not show these pictures in China until the late 1980s. Even today, given the sensitivities that linger over the Cultural Revolution in China, his work is more often seen overseas rather than at home.

Li, 72, has a book of works called Red-Color News Soldier, and he’ll be part of a major photo exhibition at London’s Barbican Art Gallery starting on September 13. We’ve included a few more pictures after the jump, but do check out the complete collection on Lens. There’s also an interview with Li that adds context to the images and the era.

After Mao’s death

(H/T The Peking Duck)

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