Many photojournalists rely on the basic protections of freedom of speech and freedom of the press to move freely, to access their subjects, and to bring their images to the public. But what is it like to photograph and report in the People’s Republic, where censorship is the norm and journalists often face more restrictions than regular citizens?
Moderators: David M. Barreda
Number 1 on the official photoville map
Many photojournalists rely on the basic protections of freedom of speech and freedom of the press to move freely, to access their subjects, and to bring their images to the public. But what is it like to photograph and report in the People’s Republic, where censorship is the norm and journalists often face more restrictions than regular citizens? How do journalists and the organizations who support them navigate this system in order to continue sharing complex, comprehensive stories from within China?
Michael Yamashita, who has been photographing for National Geographic for over 30 years; Muyi Xiao, a former staff photographer for China’s news site Tencent; and David Barreda, Visuals Editor for ChinaFile will share their insights from reporting in China. The panel will be moderated by The Economist’s Gady Epstein, who has been reporting on China since 2002.
While based in Beijing Muyi Xiao works as a photojournalist for Tencent, the biggest online media outlet in China. She covered the missing flight MH370, the Sinopec oil pipeline blast, a cult religion called ‘Mighty God’, among many other stories. She also worked and continues to work on long term documentary stories and multimedia projects covering topics like child brides in the Yunnan Province. Now, working as a fulltime freelancer she is focusing her efforts to become an independent storyteller.
Born in Wuhan, China, Xiao is a freelance photojournalist and storyteller. In 2015 she received a Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellowship, which allowed her to join six other fellows from Haiti, Syria, Ukraine, South Africa, Palestine, and the Philippines to study at NYU’s Tisch school for the Arts over the summer. Xiao will continue her photographic education this fall at the International Center of Photography’s New Media Narratives program.
Michael Yamashita has been shooting for the National Geographic magazine for over 30 years, combining his dual passions of photography and travel. After graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in Asian studies, he spent seven years in Asia, which became his area of specialty. Yamashita is known for epic stories that retrace the paths of famous travelers, like Marco Polo, the Japanese poet Basho, and the Chinese explorer Zheng He.
Yamashita has received numerous industry awards: including Pictures of the Year, Photo District News, the New York Art Directors Club, and the Asian-American Journalists Association. He has had numerous exhibitions throughout Asia, Europe and the United States.
Yamashita has published ten books: Shangri-La [along the tea road to Lhasa], The Great Wall From Beginning to End; New York: Flying High; Zheng He — Tracing the Epic Voyages of China’s Greatest Explorer; Japan — The Soul of a Nation; Marco Polo — A Photographer’s Journey; Mekong — A Journey on the Mother of Waters; In the Japanese Garden; A Pictorial Tribute to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Lakes, Peaks and Prairies: Discovering the U.S. Canadian Border.
While not traveling, Michael Yamashita lives with his family in rural New Jersey, where he maintains a studio and is an active volunteer fireman.
David M. Barreda is a visual editor, multimedia producer, curator, and journalist based in Oakland, California. He is currently a senior photo editor at National Geographic and a core team member of Diversify Photo.
Previously, David was a photo editor at Earthjustice, a founding editor at Topic, and a founding editor for ChinaFile where he launched the Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography in collaboration with the Magnum Foundation.
He has more than 20 years of visual journalism experience and prior to editing, he worked as a staff photojournalist at the San Jose Mercury News, the Rocky Mountain News, the Valley News, the Tallahassee Democrat, and the Herald of Randolph. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he received his Master’s degree, and of Middlebury College, where he majored in Geography and Environmental Studies.
Born in southern Peru and raised on a sheep farm in Vermont, David lives with his partner, their 11-year-old daughter, and Dandelion, a poodle-terrier, Covid-adoptee, rescue dog.
ChinaFile is an online magazine published by Asia Society’s Center on U.S. China Relations. It seeks to foster a more informed, nuanced, and vibrant public conversation about China in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. The Magnum Photos membership created the Magnum Foundation to build on the agency’s longstanding tradition of photography in the public interest. The Foundation strives to use documentary imagery to advance human rights and social justice, and to promote a deeper understanding of critical issues.