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Interview with Grégoire de Gaulle, grandnephew of ex-French president


World Book Day on April 23rd was marked by a significant donation from celebrated French photographer Grégoire de Gaulle to China Media Group's Foreign Expert's Book House. As the grandnephew of former French President General Charles de Gaulle, Grégoire de Gaulle presented his extensive collection of books and photographic works spanning many years. His connection to China dates back to 1978, making him one of the pioneering foreigners to explore the country through the reform and opening-up era. Through his camera lens, de Gaulle was able to chronicle China's evolution, capturing its transformation and development over the decades.

In a recent interview with CGTN, Grégoire de Gaulle discussed his passion for photography and highlighted the enduring Sino-French friendship, a bond that resonates deeply within his family lineage. Reflecting on his early encounters with China during its period of reform and opening up, he expressed how these experiences fundamentally transformed his perspective as a Westerner. Immersed in a foreign society that he previously only knew through literature and secondhand accounts, de Gaulle emphasized the impact of firsthand interactions with the people, landscapes and culture of China. He underscored the enriching exchange of perspectives between himself and local photographers, acknowledging the cultural and intergenerational communication fostered through such encounters.

Throughout his career, de Gaulle has shown a particular interest in photographing children, drawn to their inherent innocence and lack of judgment – a quality often lost in adulthood. Through his lens, he sought to capture the simplicity and purity of childhood, evoking memories of his own youth in the process.

In 2019, de Gaulle ventured to southwest China's Guizhou to document the Shui ethnic minority group, a journey that contributed to the group's application for inclusion in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. He marveled at the discovery of a culture unknown to him, noting the antiquity of their writing system, which predates even Mandarin. Furthermore, he was struck by the intelligent integration efforts, particularly in providing access to education while preserving traditional customs, arts, and sports – a model observed not only among the Shui ethnic minority but also in other regions of China, such as in Jilin, where diverse ethnic groups coexist harmoniously within shared communities.

Grégoire de Gaulle's contributions not only encapsulate the visual narrative of China's development but also serve as a testament to the enduring bonds of friendship and cultural exchange between France and China, as forged by generations of the de Gaulle family.

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