You Won’t Believe the Results When a Father and Son Take Pictures For Three Decades
1986 — The 27 year old Chinese father took a photograph of him and his son every year, for thirty years. The results are completely fascinating. See how both father and son change over the years. Here, the father poses, showing off his son on the day he was born. The expression on his face mirrors that of his new son. Both look a little unsure of the future in front of them.
1987 — Happily ensconced in his arms, his baby son grins with mild delight as the father holds him. Father and son are clearly developing a very special relationship that should continue to blossom in the coming years.
1988 — As the son would later recount, all of the photographs were taken against a specific backdrop. The chosen place was a wall right outside the father’s apartment in Southeastern China. This is where the family lived together for over two decades.
1989 — Viewers may wonder why the dad and his son are posing without a shirt. This is because the son’s birthday was right in the middle of summer. Summers in this part of China are typically very hot and humid. They were determined to keep each picture with the same elements.
1990 — The ritual of taking this specific photograph was one that the son gladly welcomed. He knew that this is what they would do on his birthday and it seemed as natural to him as celebrating any other rite, such as Chinese New Year.
1991 — His son’s growth can be seen here. No longer a baby anymore, we can see the child that is in progress. Still, he fits into his father’s arms as yet.
1992 — Here, they’ve changed the location. It appears this year they went on vacation for the son’s birthday.
1993 — This photograph shows the son’s continuing growth. At this point, the father can just about hold his son but the son’s clearly put on weight and started to head for his full height even now.
1994 — Father and son assume nearly the same expression in this new photograph. Each look at the camera with a sense of amusement and a slight weariness. We’re all left to wonder what’s going on in the family and we’re not quite sure yet.
1995 — Clasping his father around the neck, the son seems poised between wanting to get closer to his dad and wanting to establish his own person at the same time. Both father and son seem to be struggling with the son’s growing up. It will all make sense as you watch him continue to grow through the photos.
1996 — Ten year old Tian is almost ready to leave his dad’s arms. The son is pulling away from his dad in this picture, while still holding on to his dad’s waist with his legs. Father and son know his son’s time as a child will soon be over.
1997 — The eleven year old son can hardly fit in his dad’s photograph. It’s apparent that both dad and son know this. The son is trying to hang on to his dad but the father is aware that his soon is on his way to adolescence. Father and son look at the camera with a sense of resignation and perhaps a little bit of regret as they know they are both growing apart both physically and perhaps emotionally. The mystery behind their facial expression unfolds as the years move on.
1998 — No longer in his father’s arms, the son has his feet firmly on the ground finally. Father and son stand on nearly equal ground. The son looks a little like the father.
1999 — As he would later tell everyone looking at these photographs, his dad tried a variety of professions during these years. He dabbled in farming, real estate and tourism. Each time, he would realize that perhaps he would be better off trying something new. It was at this point that he returned to first love, art and began teaching others what he knew.
2000 — The son finally reaches his father’s height. In this picture, the two are posing with a puppy they have added to the household. The puppy looks on gaily in the photo while the father and son assume a grimmer expression. Each has a hand on the small dog and no, the father is not attempting to hurt the dog.
2001 — At sixteen the son looks into the camera with great confidence and a sense of hope. His arm wraps around his father’s shoulders casually, indicating both their bond and their sense of playfulness as well. Both men appear to have a happy and well-developed relationship as each looks pleased for the cameras.
2002 — Here we can see the contrast between the father and son. The son is clearly thin and yet starting to acquire muscle. His chest is that of a growing boy rather than an adult. The father, by contrast, is obviously heading into older age. At forty-three, the father has developed some fat around his waist but his face is still lean and still set with an air of determination.
2003 — The viewer sees a new background. For those who do not read Chinese, these are bill posters that one can find in much of the community. This is a new milestone for the son and the father. The son is taller than the father for the first time in his life.
2004 — This is the year that eighteen year old Tian was admitted to the prestigious Beijing Film Academy. He looks out into the camera clearly contemplating the school work in front of him. His father is obviously proud of his son’s achievements and happy to see him grow, but sad to see him off.
2005 — In his first photo since leaving home to pursue a career in film, the son stands next to his father during his summer break. The son has a small smile on his face as he knows that he and his father will continue their favorite ritual each day of his birthday.
2006 — On his twentieth birthday, the son stands with his father. Father and son look very much alike after two decades as parent and child. Viewers can see their obvious bond from the closeness of the two. The son appears ready to hug his father and the father happy to be with his son at any time. What happens in a few years will bring tears to your eyes.
2007 — This is the year the son graduated from college with a degree in film directing. The son comes home to be with his father and celebrate his achievement. They are slightly apart in this photograph, showing off how the son is off to head to the world on his own. Unlike some of the other pictures seen in the series, this particular photograph was taken during the winter at his parent’s home.
2008 — Back again at his father’s side, the son and father have nearly identical expressions on their faces. The son stands with his hands behind his back while the father lets his arms fall to his side.
2009 — The son reaches out for his father in this photograph. One arm is around the father’s shoulders while the other is poised in midair to complete the intended hug. The viewer is nearly invited to join them as they show their family bond.
2010 — During this year, the son went off to graduate school to study film directing in more depth. His aim was a career in the field and an opportunity to become part of China’s growing media elite. His look of determination in this photograph clearly comes across to both the viewer and his father.
2011 — For the first time, the two men sit in the photograph. Both father and his son seem happy and confident as they think about the path of their own lives. This is the year the son turned twenty-five while his father was fifty-two. Each appear comfortable in their own skin.
2012 — This year marks another milestone. The son got married. His father looks at the camera with a sense of a life well lived. His son stands next to him pleased at the life that is awaiting him and perhaps thinking about his own personal future decision to start a family of his own with his new bride.
2013 — In this photograph, the son shows off his growing strength to the world. Just as the father held the son in his arms in the first picture, now the son holds his father on his back. The role reversal is obviously pleasing to his father as he grins to the camera and holds on to his son’s shoulders with two hands. This is where the father and the son take on new roles, allowing for the passage of the generations.
2015 — The last photograph of the series was taken in this year. The son did not take a photograph with the father in 2014 because he was living in the United States at that time and did not visit his dad that year. Here, he poses with his dad and new son. The bright faces of father, son and grandson make this one picture that serves as a joyous celebration of life over three decades.