Messages from the Masses



Meet Meng Hai Lin. She’s a 29-year-old mobile phone engineer from Beijing, China. She has learned some English and is skeptical of marriage. Meng’s voice is but a small murmur from an unprecedented global generation—one witnessing a dramatic restructuring of traditional relationships between countries, cultures, and people. Advances in communications technologies have made it easier for her voice to be heard—and drowned out. Photographer Adrian Fisk wants to show the world what Meng and the rest of her generation want to get off of their collective chest. Thus, iSpeak was born.

So far, Fisk has taken iSpeak to India and China, traveling widely around each country. He describes his impetus and methodology (specifically for iSpeak China) on his website:

For the last few centuries the West has dominated economics, politics, and culture. But now there is a shift toward the East, in particular China, a country of 1.4 billion people of which we know little about.

It is the young Chinese who will inherit this new found global influence, but who are they and what do they think about life?

I traveled on a 12,500 km journey through China to find an answer to this question. I looked for young Chinese from 16-30 years, gave them a piece of paper, and simply told them they could write whatever they wanted to on the piece of paper. I then photographed them holding the paper.

Fisk’s portraits are occasionally funny and occasionally heartbreaking, but genuinely candid. The messages communicate the hopes, dreams, quibbles, and fears of the crowd that shares our planet’s close quarters. “Understanding is the basis for tolerance towards each other,” said Fisk in an e-mail to Utne Reader, “and this can only come from communication.”

Fisk is currently trying to acquire financial support for iSpeak Global, which would broaden the project’s horizons to 25 more countries.


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