“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Mao’s Photographer – Hou Bo (1924–2017)

Posted: December 1st, 2017 | No Comments »

I noticed that, with little mention i saw, Hou Bo died on the 26th November. She became known, with her husband Xi Xiaobing, as one of the closest photographers to Mao and had joined the Communist Party in 1938. After 1949 she and her husband lived close to Mao and had amazing access to him on a daily basis. “The Founding of the PRC” (1949), “Mao Zedong Swimming Across the Yangzi” (1955), “Chairman Mao at Work in an Airplane” (1959), “Mao Zedong with Students from Latin America” (1959) – all instantly recognizable and all Hou Bo.

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Xu Xiaobing, Hou Bo and Mao

Unsurprisingly Jiang Qing (herself an amateur photographer) went for Hou Bo during the Cultural Revolution but she survived and continued snapping away. She was an unrepentant Maoist and Communist Party member; she was happy to take and publish photographs during the Great Leap Forward that falsified the treu state of agricultural production on the country on the brink of starvation – her GLF era photograph of a straw hat wearing Mao among a field of giant corn remains a major piece of propaganda. So she was in many ways the Leni Riefenstahl of China – talented, capable of inconic work and a true believer.

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