Great Leaps Forward unveils a series of photos drawn from a plastic bag bought in a Beijing flea market in 2016. Sealed tightly with a knot, the bag had settled there unnoticed for many decades. Upon opening the bag, over 300 photos were discovered, taken by an anonymous member of the Xi’an Physical Education University’s department of Photography. All the images, meticulously depicting various athletes in action, often defying gravity, were shot on the same field during a bright day of June 1960.
To date, these images are the only photographic record that collector and artist Thomas Sauvin found from the time of The Great Leap Forward (1958-1962). During these years, a chaotic industrialization campaign meant to transform China from an agrarian economy to a new communist regime rooted in industry and large-scale agricultural production led to the deadliest famine of human history. Any photographic documentation from these years remains extremely rare.
In this posthumous collaboration with an anonymous photographer, this publication invites us to contemplate a strangely metaphorical aerial ballet on the margins of history.