The Door Opened: Documenting the Early Years of China’s Reform Era

Adrian Bradshaw first arrived in China on an aging Norwegian ferry from Hong Kong to Shanghai in 1984. He enrolled at the Beijing Languages Institute for a year as part of his course in Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. There he found himself in the midst of a society characterised by its youthful population and a rapidly growing enthusiasm for change and experimentation.

Documenting what he saw with his cameras he would go on to spend the next three decades covering the era for international media. He witnessed and recorded a vast nation in flux – from the first fashion shows to the first bankruptcy; the visits of Muhammad Ali and Bernardo Bertolucci; the transition from muddy rural free markets to vast shopping malls and e-commerce. Throughout his lengthy engagement with China what has most fascinated Bradshaw is the optimism and energy of people hungry for change. This was in the ascendant in the mid-1980s, the beginning of an era that is fondly remembered by those who witnessed it.

Adrian Bradshaw (b. Cambridge 1964) studied Chinese and Economics at SOAS and University College, University of London. He spent nearly thirty years in China working as a photojournalist for a wide variety of clients from the New York Times to Der Spiegel. Currently Bradshaw is working on book projects with an Oxford based publisher.