Behind the scenes photo project: Hebei Province Cotton Farmers, China

This photo project was something I undertook whilst filming in China. I was there shooting some sustainability CSR content in Hebei province which took the form of a short documentary about cotton farmers implementing sustainable cotton farming practices.  The project was a collaboration between the Better Cotton Initiative and several government and private sector NGOs.

Elderly cotton farmer with the first photo of himself he's seen shot by Joanna Bowers while filming in china

I had a polaroid camera with me in my camera bag and when this first elderly farmer showed an interest in what we were filming I showed him some of our equipment and he was fascinated.   I quickly understood that he’d like me to take a photo of him – and then our interpreter explained that he’d actually never possessed a photo of himself.

Quite quickly this became habitual – as a thank you to the farmers for helping us out by allowing us to film on their land or to film them working, we would offer to take a portrait for them to keep.Farmer in Hebei, China shot by director Joanna Bowers whilst shooting in mainland China

I loved seeing their individual reactions to the shots and where they would put them afterwards to keep them safe!

From their reactions when handed the photos it became pretty evident that for so many of these villagers it was their first time seeing themselves on film!An old villager sees himself for the first time on film - image shot by director Joanna Bowers whilst filming in China A cotton farmer and her son shot whilst filming in China for a CSR storytelling project