East wind, west wind - 2001
‘...To penetrate the privacy of other people’s lives would take a great deal of tact anywhere. For a Dutch photographer to have found her way into the intimate corners of Chinese lives must have taken more than that. China, for all its hospitality, can be an intensely private place.
It is traditionally a country of walled cities, walled palaces, walled gardens, and walled family compounds. The family is still the basic unit that dominates most Chinese lives.
And Bertien van Manen has penetrated those units, to show us how Chinese live, eat, touch, talk, and sleep in private. To have done this she must have been not only tactful, put persistant, curious and symphathetic. You can tell from her photographs that she was trusted. Even if she never sees them again, you feel that her subjects are her friends.
Bertien van Manen’s pictures do not have an overtly political message. She is an artist, not an activist. But the political history of China is visible in almost every photograph...’