Two men fish in a pond in Xian Village, which is in the city center of Guangzhou, China. A conflict between locals and real estate developers lasts for more than seven years because of the uneven compensation and the corruption of Xian village leaders.
Yuyang Liu
By Ye Ming
July 21, 2015

When Kevin Frayer moved to China two years ago, the freelance photojournalist for Getty Images with 25 years of experience, was not prepared to find a place of such complexity.

“China’s incredibly unique,” Frayer tells TIME. “It’s just a massive, incredibly dynamic, exciting country that is literally impossible for one person to create a larger visual narrative of. [And] because you don’t have contact immediately with Chinese photographers, you feel like you have the country all to yourself.”

Soon, Frayer realized that his Chinese colleagues were as talented as he was, but short of venues to reach an international audience. That’s when he turned to Instagram to carve out a more inclusive space dedicated solely to China.

Together with French photojournalist Fred Dufour, who works for Agence France-Presse in Bejing, Frayer gathered a few foreign and local photographers and launched @eyesonchinaproject in June, with the goal of giving viewers “one place to go to get a very broad look at this country.”

Word quickly spread and the roster grew to 19 regular contributors, 12 of them foreign photographers based in China, who are Frayer, Dufour, Sean Gallagher, Martina Albertazzi, Teo Kaye, Gilles Sabrie, Adam Dean, Giulia Marchi, Chi Yin Sim, Matjaz Tancic, Sharron Lovell and Johannes Eisele, and seven local photographers: Yuyang Liu, Yan Cong, Lijie Zhang, Bowen Liu, Zhao Wang, Qi Tian and Hao Wu. The list is expected to grow and will integrate more Chinese photographers, says Frayer.

Rainy Saturday, a group of middle school tourists just finish their visiting of Tsing Hua university. Tsing Hua is the best science and engineering university in China mainland. Many Communist Party leaders graduated from Tsing Hua, including former President Hu Jin Tao and current President Xi Jin Ping. This famous university turns to a increasingly popular tourist attraction of Beijing. 周六有雨,一个中学生旅行团结束了参观访问,走出清华大学。清华是中国大陆最好的理工大学,也是多位党和政府领导人的母校,包括前国家主席胡锦涛和现领导人习近平。清华日益变成北京的旅游热点。photo by @lbwsmail @eyesonchinaproject is a new @instagram collaboration of photojournalists and documentary photographers living and working in mainland China. The primary goal of the project is to create a diverse, dynamic and objective view of the world’s most populated country through the images and storytelling of both Chinese and foreign photographers. The work of each contributor is self-curated and presented the way they would like you to see it. All images are copyright of the photographer. @eyesonchinaproject 是@Instagram 上的一个全新的集体纪实项目。在中国生活、工作的一群中外摄影师将竭力以多样、生动、客观的图片讲述中国的故事。 每一组作品都由摄影师自己挑选编排。图片版权为摄影师所有。 #China #Asia #photojournalism #photography #beijingtourism #Tsinghua

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Concerned that too many rules could turn contributors off, Frayer did not set any boundaries other than a posting schedule. The feed does not have a curator, and photographers are free to share old and new work no matter their aspect ratio. “We’re not crafting this thing,” he tells TIME. “I think that the success of it is it’s not crafted.”

Some photographs show the surprisingly mundane moments in the life of regular Chinese, such as Albertazzi’s image of a group of men playing cards in their swim shorts on a hot summer afternoon in Beijing; others are images from long-term documentary projects, such as Zhang’s series of portraits of Chinese artists with autism.

Guangxi province, China, 2012. Like many children with autism, Ke Jun has some extremely personal habits, such as mysophobia – he couldn’t touch the leaked acrylic paint while painting. He could also spend an entire afternoon watching trains to go by. Some such behaviours were misunderstood as “quirks”, but they had became a natural and unique way for his family to understand Ke Jun’s inner world. Since 2012, Li Jie Zhang and the Innocent Project focused on artists who have mental disabilities in mainland China. www.zhanglijie.com (Photo by: ZHANG Lijie @vincentsop) 柯均(自闭症),中国广西,2012。像很多自闭症孩子一样,柯均有一些很特别的小习惯,比如洁癖,画画时有漏出来的颜料,他是死活也不肯碰的,再比如看火车,一看就是一个下午。他的这些刻板行为在旁人看来不可理解,在妈妈眼中却既特别又很自然,是了解柯均内心世界的一种途径。从2012年起,张立洁开始拍摄精神障碍艺术家,尝试着用个人化的摄影语言展现他们独特的内心世界。 www.zhanglijie.com (摄影师: ZHANG Lijie @vincentsop) @eyesonchinaproject is a new @instagram collaboration of photojournalists and documentary photographers living and working in mainland China. The primary goal of the project is to create a diverse, dynamic and objective view of the world’s most populated country through the images and storytelling of both Chinese and foreign photographers. The work of each contributor is self-curated and presented the way they would like you to see it. All images are copyright of the photographer. @eyesonchinaproject 是@Instagram 上的一个全新的集体纪实项目。在中国生活、工作的一群中外摄影师将竭力以多样、生动、客观的图片讲述中国的故事。 每一组作品都由摄影师自己挑选编排。图片版权为摄影师所有。 #China #Asia #photojournalism #photography #autism #painting #art #artist #care

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Zhang, a photographer and editor of a Beijing-based magazine for persons with disabilities, tells TIME that she was attracted to the group’s aim to provide an in-depth look at the country through “projects”, instead of just snippets of the society. “I thought it was refreshing,” Zhang says. “It’s what distinguish this feed from the @everydayeverywhere series,” which, she says, she’s an avid follower.

“There hadn’t been such collaboration [between Chinese and outside photographers] before,” adds Liu, a freelance photographer based in Guangzhou and a 2014 Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellow. “Before, the majority of time was foreign photographers teaching Chinese photographers how to shoot.”

“It’s a really interesting diverse group of people that all are doing different things,” says Frayer. “You can learn a lot through [the Chinese] colleagues that you wouldn’t learn otherwise. It’s [still] in the early stages, so it’s hard to say where people will take it, but I think people are getting it now.”

Asked whether the feed are gaining followers in China, Liu says, “There is a wall that’s stuck in between,” referring to the Internet censorship and inaccessibility of Instagram in China unless a proxy is used. To be seen in China, the group will need to publish on platforms preferred by Chinese users, such as WeChat, a mobile messaging app, or Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. The plan is on the horizon but the group agreed to take things slow.

“It’d be interesting for the Chinese audience to see the very different perspectives and focus of Chinese photographers and their foreign counterparts, which may lead to lots of attention and discussion,” Liu says.

Follow @eyesonchinaproject on Instagram.

Ye Ming is a writer and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter @yemingphoto and Instagram.

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