Júlio de Matos Photography

PREFACE [back]

FADING HUTONGS (2005 - 2008)


TO JULIO

Who are you, Julio?
Are you young or old?
Which part of the world are you from? Europe? America?
Where did you grow up?
What kind of city are you living in now?
I see you have been to my hometown Beijing. Once, twice or often?
Did you stay here for long?
What do you know about the Chinese capital? Its history? Its arts? Its people?
Did you read about it before, between, and during the journey(s)?
Do you speak Mandarin?

When I look at the photographs you took in Beijing, I cannot help but wonder about these questions. Perhaps my curiosity has to do with the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that brims in your images. However, it could not possibly be nostalgia since you may not know at all the old city of Beijing and do not have the memory of its urban life, as I do.

Fifty years ago, I was born in a hutong on the east side of Beijing and grew up in another. Through out my childhood, my universe was a courtyard, enclosed by sky, earth, and architecture and completed with trees, flowers, bicycles, and other children. It was an introverted space that was filled with domestic activities and a sense of tranquility at the same time. I have long since left the courtyard house and the Beijing with that kind of houses and hutongs has since been on its way to disappearance but as an architect I find courtyards and hutongs in almost all the buildings I have built.

Did you capture the ambience of the past that is inaccessible to you only by chance? Perhaps, I am wrong and you were here before. I could have tried to search for you on the internet but decided not to. I would rather believe in a kind of artistic and cultural sensitivity that is universal, which you must possess and manifest beautifully in your work. Then, it does not matter how much you know. Nor if you remember. Possibly, when you documented the hutongs in Beijing, you saw the neighborhood you were raised in through the camera lens and the strange was instantaneously translated into the familiar. Or, you simply observe the changing world with a profound love for humanity.

Yung Ho Chang, Architect, Beijing 2006