Friendship deepens through lens of Maltese photographer

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 9, 2017
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The snapshots of an aging group living in Malta's fortified city of Birgu, by Joseph Smith, a veteran Maltese photographer, have recently been on display in Beijing. [Photo by Wu Jin/]

A photo exhibition of the aging life in the fortified city of Birgu, Malta, opened on May 8 in Beijing to mark the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Malta as well as the archipelago country's rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), lasting for six months from Jan. 1.

Joseph Smith, the photographer, didn't want to lose the chance to remember the now senile citizens who had experienced one of the biggest atrocities in human history during World War II. He used his camera to capture the stories of the aging population so that their experiences can be well reflected and preserved through photos and shared as a legacy to the entire world for generations to come.

"I think I have chosen a very important aspect for what it is like," said Smith in his interview with, "These people lived through wars and they have so many rich stories to tell about their experiences." Smith published an album of the people in 2009, who were calm, tranquil and sincere in their contemplations, and plans to create a second volume using cinematography.

"This is a vanishing population because they are getting very old enough and many young people are swarming out of the city," Smith continued. So I decided to publish their stories."

Departing from the Mediterranean Sea to Beijing, the photos in striking colors and vivid complexions has attracted a flock of Beijing locals.

"I feel the photographer has established a very close tie with the characters in pictures," said Ye Yongcai, the chairman from the Beijing Photographers Association. "It is because he knows too well the living style of those old people, the pictures he took have few artificial gestures."

"The photos are in exquisite detail and general simplicity. For example, there is an old woman sitting below her wedding photo taken at a young age while now she has only the company of her cat in her arms. The contrast epitomizes the spirit of the photographer," Ye added.

John Aquilina U.O.M, the ambassador of Malta in Beijing, is glad to share the photos with foreign audiences like Beijing Locals.

"Historically, culturally and environmentally, Beijing is a beautiful city sharing much in common with the beautiful country of Malta, and the historic capital city, Valletta," Aquilina commented.

"The lack of knowledge or words, can form barriers…but a picture can speak thousands of words," the Maltese ambassador said. "Joseph's photograph overcomes all barriers, to reach Beijing people, young or not so young, forming a bridge among the friendship of the people of Malta and people of China."

Tian Yan, the executive vice president of the Chinese People Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, echoed that the exchange between China and EU is long standing and the friendship between China and Malta is as mellow as wine.

The idyllic, wise and elegant masterpieces of Smith have shortened the distance between Beijing's Shichahai and the Mediterranean Sea, Tian said.

The exhibition was held at the Xicheng District No.1 Library.

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