To mark the release of Ai Weiwei’s memoir, Circa Art commissioned me to document a moving exchange between father and son.
A ‘1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows’ is a century-long tale of China, told through the lens of Ai’s extraordinary life, and the legacy left by his late father and acclaimed poet, Ai Qing. Through this photo series my hope was to capture what was so important for Ai: the passing on of familial memory from one generation to the next.
One of Ai’s early memories of his father, before they were exiled to a detention camp together, was helping him burn his books outside their home when he was ten years old.
At the time of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, Ai Qing’s collection of foreign-published poetry, art catalogues and novels increasingly posed a threat to him and his family.
Fifty years on, Ai Weiwei’s burning of his memoir is an act of defiance - a testament to the power of the printed word.