Dubbed the “ant tribe” because of its extremely high density, Tangjialing was a satellite village just north of Beijing. A few years ago, the community was completely demolished to make way for new apartment blocks. Photographer Max Kristula-Green visited Tangjialing in 2010 to record life in this crowded Chinese suburb before urbanization took over.
“I had visited Beijing a few times prior to this as I grew up in Japan and was able to visit often,” Kristula-Green says. “I have seen rapid structural growth over a long period of time. Tangjialing provided a microcosm of this growth with literal elements of destruction and construction, old and new, living side by side.”
In the tight quarters of Tangjialing, it was common for several roommates to share tiny rooms to save on rent costs. “Tangjialing was mainly inhabited by migrant workers and postgraduate intellectuals who, due to the tough job market in Beijing, are often forced to accept low-paying jobs unrelated to their degree,” says Kristula-Green. “Encircling the village is China’s expanding Silicon Valley, where large corporations such as Baidu and Lenovo have offices.
“Life in this ‘intellectual slum’ was cut short, as Tangjialing was demolished and its inhabitants forced out to make way for China’s infamous mega-block style housing—designed to entice white-collar workers to move into the area and further feed the growth of Silicon Valley. Tangjialing represents the way China is urbanizing—rapidly, and without respite. The global importance of China’s urbanization is undeniable, and this project seeks to record it as it happens.”
Born in Taiwan, Kristula-Green grew up in Tokyo, and is now based in New York. “My photography is influenced by personal experience,” he says. “I had a childhood where we had to constantly move from apartments and houses, due in part to the fact that there were plans to tear them down for larger scale construction.”
Kristula-Green has not been able to visit Tangjialing since construction there began. “I have been tracking the site on Google Maps, and it currently looks to have been turned into a forest and park with large scale construction in the back.”
More photography documenting urban spaces:
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Michael Wolf’s 5 Tips for Shooting Urban Landscapes