Kodak Removes Instagram Post About China After Blowback

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American company Eastman Kodak has deleted an Instagram post containing images of the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where the government has been accused of serious human rights abuses, after an online backlash from Beijing’s supporters.

The post promoted the work of French photographer Patrick Wack, who has made several trips to Xinjiang in recent years and has collected his photographs in a book. The project took a leap forward when Kodak shared 10 photos, all shot in a Kodak movie, with 839,000 Instagram followers last week.

In his Kodak post and his own Instagram account, Mr. Wack described the footage as a visual depiction of Xinjiang’s “sudden fall into Orwellian dystopia” over the past five years. This did not bode well for Chinese social media users, who often loudly object to Western criticism of Chinese government policies. In addition to deleting the post, Kodak apologized for “any misunderstanding or offense” it may cause.

Kodak is not the first international company to apologize for violations in Xinjiang, which Western politicians and human rights groups say. Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups subjected to forced labor and genocide by the Chinese government.

Now Kodak is receiving criticism online not only from Chinese social media users, but also from people in the West who see their products as the industry’s gold standard for analog photography.

“A photographic company shouldn’t be afraid to take a stand on such an important human rights project,” said Ariane Kovalevsky, director of Inland Stories, an international cooperative of 11 documentary photographers based in Paris. Escape.

Mr Wack, 42, said Kodak’s decision was notable in part because its products have been used to document political events for decades.

Wack, who has lived in China for 11 years and now lives in Berlin, said: “So for them, who have historically been one of the main actors in photography, it’s what upsets so many people to say they don’t want to be political.” .

Mr. Wack grew up outside of Paris and photos taken on duty For The New York Times and many other Western publications. His book “Dust” will be released in October by André Frère Éditions, a publisher in Marseille, France.

The book includes: Photos he took in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2019, along with articles by academic experts on the region and by journalist Brice Pedroletti, the former Chinese bureau chief of the French newspaper Le Monde. Most of the images show construction sites amid quiet, dusty landscapes; Mr. Wack said the book captures the “uneasy” relationship between local residents and settlers from China’s majority Han ethnic group.

The first part of the book is based on analog pictures from 2016 and 2017 and is taken from “Out West,” a series in which Mr. Wack tries to draw visual parallels between the Chinese government settlement of Xinjiang and the westward expansion of the United States. States.

“I wanted to draw a parallel between the founding American mythology – the 19th century mythology of the conquest of the West – for all the dreams it held for these settlers and all the despair and mystery it brought to all the natives,” he said. Wack said in an interview.

The main image in the Kodak post was a somber portrait from the “Out West” series. A Uyghur man looks out the door of his house southeast of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, as his shadow falls directly behind him.

The second part of the book “Stay the Night” consists of digital images taken by Mr. Wack as the Chinese government on two separate trips to Xinjiang in 2019. raising the pressure on the Uighurs. None of these images were included in Kodak’s Instagram post.

Mr Wack said he was initially approached by a social media manager from Kodak who was enthusiastic about his job and later apologized, saying the decision was made by senior management after the company removed the post about him on Instagram. Kodak Eastman did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday’s Asian business day.

Mr Wack’s Instagram post for Kodak said the Xinjiang region was “at the center of an international backlash following the mass incarceration of the Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities in recent years.”

Kodak’s article uploaded this week Wack’s photos and comments, the company said, the Instagram page was designed not to be a “political commentary platform” but to “enable creativity by providing a platform to promote the film medium”.

Kodak said on its Chinese website that it had identified an “audit loophole” in content production, which it pledged to “review and fix”.

Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid article On Wednesday, about Kodak’s decision that certain companies and individuals are meeting “the West’s demand to demonize Xinjiang” for publicity and financial gain.

Founded in 1888, Kodak was once a home technology brand in the United States. A cautionary tale about now What happens when a tech company changes slowly?. In 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy protection after failing to transition to digital images.

Corporate records show that Kodak China has five companies registered in mainland China, all linked to a holding company in Hong Kong.

On the Chinese Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo, some users asked this week why such an “old” American brand was posting about China. Others said Mr. Wack’s criticism of the Chinese government’s policies of mass incarceration in Xinjiang contradicted his benign landscape photography.

“Xinjiang is beautiful, but Kodak is trying to sneak in its bias to get attention,” reads the headline of an article on Guancha.com, a nationalist news website shared on Weibo by the Communist Youth League Central Committee.

Mr Wack said on Wednesday the sightings were made partly for aesthetic reasons, but also for practical reasons: He was heavily watched by authorities during his trips to Xinjiang and would not be able to photograph arrests, detention camps or other obvious signs of it. printing.

“The only thing you can photograph is the gloomy atmosphere and the change in landscape,” he said.

“This is what the book is about: showing how the region has radically changed and become another world in just a few years,” he added. “2016 was full of colors again: You had golden domes, Muslim symbols, and women wearing hijabs everywhere. In 2019, all of that has disappeared.”

Cao Li contributing reporting.



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