At great personal risk, Li Zhensheng a photojournalist living in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang during the Cultural Revolution - managed to hide and preserve more than 30,000 negatives during that 10-year period of upheaval.
Claude Cookman, associate professor of journalism, said he is fascinated by Li's courageous work as an example of how photography and history can intersect. In his own historical research, he looks at the historical context and how it brings meaning to the images.
"China is a prominent player in today's world . . . IU students are going to have to understand China as they progress through their careers as this century unfolds," Cookman said. "These pictures and Li Zhensheng's lecture will give our students a snapshot from an important period in Chinese history that has been, in effect, swept under the rug.
"He also can serve as a model for student photographers," Cookman added. "We will see in his lecture -- and it's apparent in his book -- how one goes about documenting a huge cultural phenomenon."
Li was born into a poor family in 1940 in Dalian, Liaoning Province. His mother died when he was 2 years old and his father worked as a cook on a steamship, then as a farm laborer. As a teenager, Li won a coveted position to study cinematography at the Changchun Film Institute in Jilin, only to see the department converted to the more socially "useful" one of photojournalism.
After graduation, Li joined the party newspaper, Heilongjiang Daily, in Harbin in northeastern China as a photographer in 1964, just before the outbreak of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. To gain easier access to the chaotic events of the decade, he formed his own rebel group and even sewed his own armband. He would remain with the large provincial newspaper for 19 years. He moved to Beijing with his wife and two children in 1982 to undertake a 10-year teaching career at the journalism department of the International Political Science Institute.
Li continues to lecture extensively about his work, including in China. The first retrospective of his work in his native country took place in Hong Kong this summer.
In the heat of the Cultural Revolution tens of thousands of Red Guards went to destroy the Temple of Paradise (Jile Temple) in Harbin, not content to cover the walls with dazibao they forced the monks to undergo “public struggle", some one had the monks hold up a banner that read “all Buddhist scriptures are dog fart". Li Zhensheng who was photo-reporter with the Heilomgjiang Daily has amassed around a hundred thousands of negatives from the Cultural Revolution.