Photographed by Beijing-based photographer Tan Siok Siok, the narrow hutong alleyways near Lama Temple don’t entirely exist. At least, not as shown here.
For her photo book Ren Zai Beijing, Tan accidentally created a time capsule. She captured everyday scenes along Fangjia Hutong and other nearby hutongs with her iPhone, not knowing they’d be bricked over – or as official parlance goes, ‘beautified’ – just a few months later.
The Singapore-native has taken photos of her neighborhood as a “creative challenge,” daily for the past five years. As Tan tells That’s Beijing: “What fascinated me was the impermanence of everything in the hutongs.”
The past few months of construction have made Tan’s point all too clear. “It feels like the timing was fortuitous and now I’ve captured a tiny slice of history,” the photographer says. “Within the span of seven years, I’ve seen Fangjia Hutong go from a quiet alley to ‘hipster grand central’ with bars, restaurants and cafes and now back to being a quiet hutong.
“I miss my old haunts that have moved out of Fangjia since the city renovation. [But] I’m curious to find out how the hutong will be transformed. I hope the efforts will be creative and imaginative and we’ll see a revitalized hutong.”
But for now, Tan’s stark black-and-white images depict the area as many of us came to know it – and are unlikely to see again.
Photos by Tan Siok Siok