On the Disappearance of Lu Guang

On the Disappearance of Lu Guang

Just some quick commentary regarding some things I’ve read in today’s New York Times.

I always say the two biggest problems in the world are (a) man’s inhumanity to man, and (b) man’s desecration of the planet. Two articles appearing in today’s Times obituary section, attest to man’s inhumanity to man. The first describes how Selma Engel and her husband escaped the Sobibor Nazi extermination camp, where, the article states, between 167,000 to 350,000 people were murdered. The second obit relates how a Tibetan Buddhist monk endured over three decades of hard labor and torture in a Chinese prison (1959-1992).

The next article I’ll mention — “A Photographer Disappears / Lu Guang’s images have shown the world China’s dark side,” by Robert Y. Pledge — also involves China. Internationally acclaimed photographer Lu Guang, living in the United States, as a permanent resident, with his wife and son, went missing while on assignment in China. It’s been five weeks. According to the article, his wife, Xu Xiaoli, “has attempted multiple times to learn about her husband’s status and health from” Chinese authorities, but they have not responded. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with how the Chinese government operates.

The article states that Guang “believes, in the tradition of the great American photo essayist, Eugene Smith, that photography ‘is a small voice’ that can help change the world.” The article concludes by stating “We hope that he will soon be returned to us, safely.” I echo that sentiment. The world has undoubtedly become a much more dangerous place for journalists, ever since our president has painted the media as “enemies of the people.” That kind of talk can only have emboldened nations such as China, Russia,the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

Five examples of Guang’s talent as a photographer accompany the piece. They all attest to the pollution of China’s land, water and air. One photo in particular caught my attention. I read the caption, looked again at the photo, and realized … “Oh my God! They’re not so-called ‘sculpted sheep. They’re actual sculpted sheep!” It’s as if the land itself can no longer support real sheep. Which is also likely the case. The land looks barren; and in the distance, smokestacks can be seen belching smoke.

Hopefully, Lu Guang is still alive, and will again, some day, be in a position to bear witness to what we’re doing to the planet.