1. A big thank you to all who came to the #Magnumfoundation talk we gave last night at InterGallery, 798 Arts District, Beijing. It was standing room-only and we had a engaging discussion about documentary photography and the Magnum Foundation fellowship. Thank you Na Risong and InterGallery for hosting us and Robert Pledge for being a special guest. Thanks and stay in touch! Picture by @_douxiao “#magnum #magnumfoundation” via @PhotoRepost_app

     
  2. Popsicle and the past. #market #mao #culturalrevolution #china #beijing #everydayasia @viiphoto

     
  3. Chivalry, Chinese-style? #guizhou #GuizhouPhotoFestival #magnumfoundation #iphoneonly #hipstamatic @viiphoto

     
  4. Tiles on a table in the old Hakka house my great-grandfather helped to build in our ancestral village and which our family still owns almost half the rooms in - in theory. The Great Wall is an icon of greatness for many rural Chinese. Hence the Chinese saying “不到长城非好汉 / Not a real man if you don’t go to the Great Wall”. For my relatives here, the fact that I now live in Beijing is a pretty big deal. But when I visit here they say I have “come home”. #family #roots #hakka #meixian #gaoshangvillage #iphoneonly #hipstamatic @viiphoto

     
  5. Master barber old Mr Jiang has been in hairdressing for almost 60 years; stills tends to each of his customers with great care. A shave costs 6 yuan and a haircut and wash 12 yuan. #songkou #meixian #guangdong #roots #family #iphoneonly @viiphoto

     
  6. The jetty where my great-grandfather Shen Shuixiang 沈水详 like so many Hakkas in the then impoverished mountains here must have left our ancestral village in east Guangdong to set sail in a small boat for Shantou where they got on ocean-going vessels, sailed through the South China Sea and ended up in Nanyang or Southeast Asia. Great-granddad ended up in Selama, Perak in Malaya. It’s also through here that my granddad Shen Huansheng 沈焕盛 came back from Malaya, deported by the British for suspected leftist activities. He was later imprisoned in this town of Songkou by the Kuomintang as a Communist guerrilla and then taken away and shot in a mass execution as the KMT retreated towards Taiwan. 火船码头,#松口,#梅县, literally Fireboat Jetty, Songkou, Meixian #guangdong #china #family #roots #history #客家人 #hakka @viiphoto

     
  7. Reflections.
    It’s almost full moon on this 12th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar. The moon reflected in the Han Jiang river 韩江 near Songkou 松口 jetty where, like my paternal great-grandfather, many Hakkas left this mountainous and impoverished part of eastern Guangdong province to set sail for Nanyang 南洋 at the turn of the last century. They sailed on boats to Shantou 汕头 and then into the South China Sea for Malaya or Indonesia.
    My grandfather — in 1948 — came back through this town, having been deported by the British from Malaya. Less than a year later became imprisoned as a Communist cadre in this town by the Kuomintang, and later taken away and executed. #songkou #meixian #松口 #梅县 #roots #下南洋 #family #history #migration #sonyA7 #leicasummicron @viiphoto

     
     
  8. Morning rush, leisurely #meizhou style. A lot of the old city of #meizhou has been torn down - like in most of China - but one small quarter remains. Some of the architecture is traditional Chinese but some of it has distinctive influences from the European styles locals who came back from Southeast Asia brought or sent back from what was known as Nanyang or the southern seas at the time. #meizhou #梅州 #hometown #hipstamatic #iphoneonly #everydayasia

     
  9. Morning light on mop. #hometown Been a while since I got so excited over a mop. #roots #family #everydayasia #meizhou #梅州 #guangdong #china @viiphoto

     
  10. Rose in hand, two local biker girls all set for Chinese Valentine’s day tomorrow, the 7th day of the 7th month, also known as the Double Seventh festival . Back in #Meizhou, my ancestral hometown, #guangdong, #china. #iphoneonly #everydayasia @viiphoto

     
  11. Thank you, Desmond Lim, for the in-depth interview and profile in The Straits Times, Singapore, July 10. Thank you too, to Stephanie Yeow and the Picture Desk that watched me grow up! 

    http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/more-lifestyle-stories/story/singaporean-photographer-first-asian-join-prestigious-vii-pho

     
  12. Thank you, Olivier Laurent and TIME for this piece from a few weeks ago!

    http://lightbox.time.com/2014/07/09/sim-chi-yin-joins-vii-photo-as-an-interim-member/#1 

     
  13. @JamesEstrin’s NYTLens blog interview on my joining VII now out in Chinese, on the NYTimes Chinese site. Thanks much Jim and NYTimes Chinese! 

    http://cn.nytimes.com/lens/20140729/c29lens-china/dual/

     
  14. Just ended a week of Instagramming for @opensocietyfoundations from a Guangzhou urban village and migrant worker community. Thanks for following! It’s been fun and meaningful.
    Full set of images on @opensocietyfoundations’s feed, or http://instagram.com/opensocietyfoundations
    ——
    Construction worker He Tiejun, from Hunan province, searches for a mobile phone signal — notoriously bad in the claustrophobic and run-down urban village where he lives with four other workers from his hometown while in Guangzhou for three months. He bought this secondhand Chinese-made smartphone for 120 yuan at a neighbourhood store just a few days ago and has been thrilled with it, keeping it wrapped in a plastic bag to prevent his sweat from ruining it as he works hauling and laying electric cables at a posh new shopping mall in downtown Guangzhou. He uses it to call home to chat with his family and lays in bed watching Chinese movies on it, downloaded at a local Internet bar. ——— Thanks everyone for coming along exploring with me around this migrant worker community this past week. I’ve enjoyed spending time and having conversations with them, and was fortunate to see them working and living up-close.
    Thank you @opensocietyfoundations for the opportunity to share some of their stories — and to put some human faces on the economic growth and urbanization we see all around us in China. Over and out! Photo by @chiyin_sim / @viiphoto@opensocietyfoundations @everydayasia #osf #opensociety #documentary #photojournalism #concernedphotography #urbanization #migration #land #housing #china #guangzhou

     

  15. A big thank you to @jamesestrin for the in-depth interview he did on my past and present, for NYTimes Lens blog. 

    Just back from the road and posting this late. 

    http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/09/vii-sim-chi-yin-china-photos-family-destiny-to-photograph-the-new-china/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0Lens

    A Familiar Destiny to Photograph the New China

    By 

    Sim Chi Yin had a cushy expat life in Beijing working as a reporter for The Singapore Straits Times, writing long feature stories and sometimes taking photos. The company paid for her education at the London School of Economics in exchange for eight years of employment. She had health insurance, a pension and job security.

    So why did she walk away from that after nine years?

    “I wanted to be a photographer but the editors at The Straits Times said I was overqualified,” she recalled. “Almost every year I asked to be assigned to the photo desk but they didn’t take visual journalism seriously.”

    Ms. Sim — an ethnic-Chinese, middle-class child from Singapore whose family had risen from humble roots — had wanted to be a photographer since she was a teenager. So as grateful as she was to her newspaper, she took a gamble on photography.

    Her decision, which meant slashing her expenses and moving to a smaller apartment, has paid off: Last month she joined the cooperative photo agency VII as an interim member, after being mentored for the past three years by Marcus Bleasdale as part of VII’s mentorship program.

    Photo
    Monks on a leisurely visit to Mandalay Hills. Monks are revered in this largely Buddhist country and led mass protests in 2007, leading to a crackdown and an exodus of Burmese activists into Thailand.
    Monks on a leisurely visit to Mandalay Hills. Monks are revered in this largely Buddhist country and led mass protests in 2007, leading to a crackdown and an exodus of Burmese activists into Thailand.Credit Sim Chi Yin/VII

    “Most importantly, she is great photographer, a great journalist and a really good person who is dedicated to issue oriented storytelling,” said Ed Kashi, who is on VII’s board.

    He also acknowledged that VII, like Magnum and other cooperative agencies, have had too few women and people of color as members and that Ms. Sim’s background is a welcome change. Ms. Sim, who has freelanced for The New York Times, Time Magazine and the New Yorker, speaks fluent Mandarin.

    The interim membership is like a two-year trial marriage for both sides, during which Ms. Sim wants to organize group projects and expand the agency’s presence in Asia.

    Chi Yin Sim grew up in Singapore in an ethnic Chinese family that had lived overseas for three generations and almost never spoke of the past. As a teenager she devoted herself to being “a useful person”, working with disabled people and volunteering as a Salvation Army Christmas bell-ringer at shopping malls.

    Her parents were not interested in politics or civic engagement. Ms. Sim always felt that her parents didn’t understand or approve of her interest in social issues, activism and eventually journalism.

    But she did not fully understand their disapproval at first.

    After receiving a masters in Chinese history she delved into her family’s past, especially curious about her grandfather, whom no one ever spoke of. Her mother showed her a photo of a man with a box camera slung around his neck.

    Photo
    Sim Chi Yin's grandfather, Shen Huansheng. It's likely this photo was taken in the early to mid 1940s in British Malaya.
    Sim Chi Yin’s grandfather, Shen Huansheng. It’s likely this photo was taken in the early to mid 1940s in British Malaya.Credit Sim Chi Yin/VII

    Over the next eight years she discovered he had been a school principal, businessman and eventually the editor of a leftist newspaper in Malaya. She learned that he had been active in Malaya’s Chinese community and was arrested and tortured by Japanese occupying forces during World War II. When the British returned, he wrote anti-colonial editorials, which led to his arrest. Given the choice of staying in jail or being deported, he left to his ancestral village in Guangdong province, leaving his family behind temporarily.

    Ms. Sim only learned this hidden family history in full when she visited her relatives in Gaoshang, a farming village in China, in 2011. Her grandfather is revered as a martyr for the revolution: a six-foot tall obelisk marks his burial place. A month after arriving he joined the Chinese Communist Party guerrillas, he was captured by Nationalist forces and was executed shortly before the Communist victory.

    Ms. Sim often wonders what her grandfather would think of the “New China” he fought for. She is “sure that he would be disappointed” with a lot of aspects of it. But she also suspects he would have approved of her interests in journalism and social issues, as she tries to do what she can “to be useful.”

    “It’s an enormous place with enormous problems,” she said. “But I have come to really care about China and its people. After all, it’s the place where my grandfather died for.”


    Follow @chiyin_sim@JamesEstrin and @nytimesphoto on Twitter. Lens is also on Facebook.