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Fur Coat, Dongling, China, 2012.

Fur Coat, Dongling, China, 2012.


from the photographer... "Standing in the middle of a rural street, trying to hail a local bus, this young woman is the archetypal Chinese migrant worker, leaving the countryside for the towns and cities — to work for a better life. Her faux fur coat, leopard skin patterned bag, and shin-high leather boots hint at her urban aspirations, even as she shuffles down a gravelly village street, probably heading back to town after a visit home. 

I was stepping out of a car on a trip to a village in landlocked Anhui province in central China when she caught my eye. I made just a few frames but for me, she’s become the face of the millions of young migrant workers who drive China’s urban economy, the same people I photographed in my long-term project "The Rat Tribe". They are full of youthful zeal to make it big in the city and to move up in life. What I see in her appearance, posture, expression is a typical hopefulness and tenacity common to many migrants around the world. But in it is also the growing disjunct between country and city, the emerging discomfort younger Chinese have for the rural life as China deals with the largest ever domestic migration in human history.  This image is the cover of the book Out to Work: Migration, Gender, and the Changing Lives of Rural Women in Contemporary China, by Arianne Gaetano 

Sim Chi Yin is a visual author focused on documentary projects in Asia. She is particularly interested in history and memory, migration and transience. A fourth-generation overseas Chinese born and raised in Singapore, schooled in London and now based in Beijing for the past eight years, Chi Yin feels both southeast Asian and Chinese, and is curious about where cultures meet and blend or diverge.

Her work has been screened at photo festivals in Arles and Perpignan, and exhibited at PhotoVille in New York, the Annenberg Space in Los Angeles, Paris Photo, Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, and at festivals in China. She has spoken and taught at festivals and schools in the US, Europe and Asia.

She has done photography, video and multimedia commissions for TIME, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Le Mondeand The New Yorker, among other top international publications, as well as NGO clients. Her personal work is more long-form and presented as books, installations and projections.

Chi Yin was a Magnum Foundation Human Rights and Photography fellow at New York University in 2010 and a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 2013. She was listed as one of 30 emerging photographers globally by Photo District News in 2013 PDN30 and in the Ones to Watch list by the British Journal of Photography in 2014. That year, she was Her World Magazine’s Young Woman Achiever of the Year.

She was a World Press Photo jury member for documentary categories in 2016.

Chi Yin was trained as a historian, finishing two degrees in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for The Straits Times, Singapore’s national English language daily, for nine years before quitting to be an independent story-teller.


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