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Wanping international photography city: still a long way to go
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Wanping city was built in 1637 and located in the southern part of Beijing. In 1937 the July 7 Incident broke out here. Late in the 20th century the Beijing government restored the original city. It is now on its way to becoming an international photography city, but still needs a lot of effort and support.

The first large-scale exhibition of photography runs from May 1 to May 10 and is the first step on the way to becoming an international photography city. The theme of the exhibition is "Social Documentary Photography and China Today 1949-2009", which brings a large number of outstanding and classic Chinese documentary photography works together for the first time in history. Its classic works, academic values and delicate design have gained great popularity among visitors and photographers. It welcomed about 20,000 people during the first three days of its run, about 5,000 of whom are photography fans. The exhibition has created a sensation in the photo industry. News about the exhibition spread fast on the internet, too. Some traveling websites have used it as a selling point.

Wanping city has many advantages as a photography center. It has a rich historical and cultural heritage and an attractive atmosphere. It sits on the south side of Beijing and is very convenient for visitors. As a center of culture and politics, Beijing needs a photography center for international cultural exchange. Moreover, market potential is huge - there are hundreds of thousands of photography enthusiasts, many of whom will spend money on expensive equipment.

There are still many unsolved problems, and a variety of opinions among the organizers and local government were revealed at the summing-up meeting on May 7. Due to a lack of relevant experience, both sides were confused about the boundary of responsibilities and rights. For example, the government can provide public services which must be paid for by the organizers, a privately-owned company. Issues like this had not been dealt with before, so disputes arose. Another problem was about how much money local government should offer.

The two sides have not yet reached an agreement. Despite all the differences, both sides have confidence and would like to seek further cooperation to build the international photography city. Local government appreciated the organizers’ professional ability and hard work. The organizers need the help of the government too.

Both sides talked about their future plans. According to an official of Fengtai district government, a proposal on the international photography city will be handed to upper government soon for expert evaluation. If it passes, Fengtai government will sponsor one additional future event. However, the official stressed that companies could not and should not depend on government subsidy. The ideal model will be "organizers take legal, economic and social responsibility; markets participate; government sponsors".

The official also suggested the exhibition could be multi-themed and stimulate the enthusiasm of local residents by giving them discounts. 'Photo fans’ was the preliminary choice of the organizers as the theme for next year, and they said they will seek more sponsorship from big corporations like Sony, Canon and Epson. Besides exhibitions, the plan needs a complete photo industry chain and supporting facilities such as snack bars and coffee shops to attract more tourists in the future.

(China.org.cn by Ren Zhongxi, May 8, 2009)

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