During the 1960’s, faced with an unstable foreign policy as well as a high demand for resources, the People’s Republic of China was forced to delocalise most of its heavy industry and armament factories. Originally situated on China’s coasts and in the Northeast, close to the Russian border, these factories were relocated to the heart of the nation, hidden away and better protected.
Over a short period of time, millions of workers were encouraged to move to the mountainous regions of Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunman, where hundreds of factories were quickly constructed, in turn stimulating local economies. Such a large-scale relocation effort was unprecedented in China, and the “Third Front” was born. Villages transformed overnight into dormitory towns to house the influx of labourers, and former hamlets boomed into prosperous industrial zones.
Employing a distorted wide-angle lens, Chen Jiagang records these artifacts in his photograph series, “Smog City”. A self-described expressionist photographer, Chen’s photographs conjure a type of industrial fairy tale.