Lu Guang (photographer)

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Lu Guang (卢广) (born 1961) is a Chinese independent photojournalist.[1][2][3] His work consists of large documentary projects on social, environmental, and economic issues, exposing the lives of "people on the margins of Chinese society: coal miners, drug addicts, HIV patients."[4] His stories on pollution and environmental destruction cover topics traditionally under-reported due to the risk of punishment by the Chinese government.[5]

He has received three World Press Photo awards, the Henri Nannen Prize for photojournalism, the W. Eugene Smith Grant, a photography grant from the National Geographic and the Prince Claus Award.

Lu is based in New York City,[6] the first Chinese photographer to be invited by the U.S. State Department as a visiting scholar,[7] and Beijing. In early November 2018, whilst travelling in Xinjiang, he was taken away by state security agents. He was released in 2019.

Life and work[edit]

Lu was born in 1961 in the city of Yongkang in the Zhejiang province of China.[2] He grew up under Mao Zedong's policies in the People's Republic of China. At the age of fifteen, following Mao's death, China underwent economic change with the introduction of Western industrialization.

In 1980, Lu encountered photography while working in a silk factory in Yongkang.[2][1] From 1987 until 1993, he ran his own photo studio. Later, he studied photography at the Fine Arts Academy of Tsinghua University (Beijing) from 1993 to 1995. He worked for several years on advertising assignments before going freelance as a reportage photographer.[2][1] During his years of study at Tsinghua University, Lu encountered Xie Hairong, another Chinese photographer, from whom he gained inspiration to become a photojournalist.

Lu's work covers a wide range of consequences of China's rapid industrialization.[2] A reoccurring theme is that of "cancer villages" in certain affected provinces, the negative environmental conditions (such as water pollution) causing these cancer villages and other related health issues, and the effect of industrialization on Chinese countrysides and its people. Lu has stated that his choice of subject in his photography is done to raise awareness in both China and on a global scale.

The Shanxi province is the setting for a photograph within the series capturing severe birth defects present in the children living there, the province is also one of the most polluted areas in China. Beyond the Yellow River, Lu also documented pollution in the Yangtze River, the Qiantang River, leaking sewage from the industrial districts. Heavy sewage and air pollution in Anyang City of Henan province is shown negatively affecting the lives of villagers.

His projects have included one on AIDS in the Chinese province of Henan[4] as well as Pollution in China,[2] Gold Rush, Drug Girl and Development and Pollution.

Lu's photographs have been published in the National Geographic, The Guardian and by Greenpeace.[8] He lives in New York.[9] Because of his reporting on social issues, Lu has had attempts to stop his work.[8][10]

Lu is based in New York City,[6] the first Chinese photographer to be invited by the U.S. State Department as a visiting scholar,[7] and Beijing.[1]

In early November 2018, whilst travelling in Xinjiang, Lu was taken away by state security agents and has not been heard from since.[5][9][7][4] A restrictive security regime with re-education camps for the predominantly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs is in place in the region.[5] Amnesty International is concerned Lu's detention may relate to this situation in the region and has called on the Chinese government to "release him immediately",[11][12] and Human Rights Watch has called on it to "immediately confirm and clarify" his "whereabouts and well-being".[12]

In September 2019, Lu's wife Xu Xiaoli published on Twitter that Lu had been home for a few months.[13]


  • 2004: First Prize, World Press Photo, Contemporary Issues category, for a story about Henan province peasants who had been infected with HIV after selling their blood.[5][1][4][14]
  • 2008: Henri Nannen Prize for photojournalism from Gruner + Jahr.[15]
  • 2009: $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for his project Pollution in China.[2][16]
  • 2010: Photography grant from National Geographic to support a project documenting pollution in China and its impact on people's lives.[17]
  • 2011: Third Prize, World Press Photo, Spot News category.[18]
  • 2013: Prince Claus Award.[19]
  • 2015: Third Prize, World Press Photo, Long-Term Projects category for his project Development and Pollution in China.[1][20]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Grey, Tobias (8 September 2017). "Lu Guang: one man's crusade against pollution". Financial Times. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dunlap, David; Estrin, James (14 October 2009). "Showcase: Infernal Landscapes". Lens blog. New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  3. ^ Koshal, Karishma (1 December 2019). "Revisiting a Chinese photographer's work in the wake of his arrest". The Caravan. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Prominent Chinese Photographer Lu Guang Missing, Wife Says". Time. Archived from the original on 12 December 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Press, Associated (28 November 2018). "Award-winning Chinese photographer Lu Guang detained in Xinjiang, says wife". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Award-Winning Chinese Photojournalist Missing While Visiting The Country, Wife Says". Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b c CNN, Eric Cheung, Joshua Berlinger, Steven Jiang, and Serenitie Wang. "Award-winning Chinese photographer disappears in Xinjiang, wife says". CNN. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b (in French) "Un des leurs", Greenpeace Member magazine 4/2017, Greenpeace Switzerland, pages 21-25.
  9. ^ a b "Chinese photographer disappears in Xinjiang". BBC News. 27 November 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  10. ^ Guang, Lu. An Interview With Award-Winning Photographer Lu Guang. World Press Photo, 6 May 2011. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  11. ^ Asia, Radio Free. "Chinese Photographer Detained in Xinjiang, Wife Says". Voice of America News. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Missing photographer likely arrested in Xinjiang, says wife". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  13. ^ "China releases photojournalist Lu Guang after a year of detention". DIY Photography. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  14. ^ "2004 Lu Guang CIS1-AL". World Press Photo. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Henri Nannen Preis - Award Winners / 2008". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  16. ^ "2009: Lu Gang", W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund. Accessed 26 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Lu Guang Portfolio", National Geographic (magazine). Accessed 15 August 2014.
  18. ^ "2011 Lu Guang SNS3-AL". World Press Photo. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  19. ^ "Lu Gang: speech by ambassador Jacobi" Archived 28 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Prince Claus Fund (page visited on 29 December 2017).
  20. ^ "Development and Pollution". World Press Photo. Retrieved 29 December 2017.

External links[edit]