A time to remember: Man photographs 1,000 seniors in 6 years for free
Updated 12:50, 16-Jan-2019
CGTN
04:46

Liu Guozhuang works in the Shenyang Thermal Power Plant. In his spare time, he often visits nursing homes to take photos for seniors.

He is nicknamed the "photographer who races against time."

Photographer Liu Guozhuang (left) talking with an elderly /by CGTN

Photographer Liu Guozhuang (left) talking with an elderly /by CGTN

This all began five years ago when he volunteered in a nursing home. An old man told him that one of his friends here passed away, having no photos taken in his last days. He hoped there could be a photo for others to remember him.

Liu agreed and took a photo for him. "He got emotional and said a million thank-yous when I gave it to him," Liu said. "The other seniors were also interested in it. An old lady shed tears and said it was her first photo in over two decades, which was overwhelming. I was deeply moved and decided to carry on."

At first, Liu thought it was just fulfilling someone's wishes, having no idea that it'd turn out to be an urgent job.

"There's an auntie who was in good health last year," Liu said. "She always chatted with me, asking me to take more photos so she could send some to her child in another city. She's been bedridden when I was there a while ago. I feel bad for her. The director of the nursing house told me that six people have passed away since I left there last year, whose last portraits were all my works."

Photos courtesy of Liu Guozhuang

Photos courtesy of Liu Guozhuang

Once, he was only late for one hour and lost the chance to deliver the photos in person.

Afterward, he decided not to waste a minute. "We develop the pictures as soon as possible and make sure they get them in three days. We don't want them, or us, to leave any regret. You never know what comes first."

The nursing homes that Liu visits more often are in the suburbs, where most seniors have no family anymore to rely on. "Although fewer old people worry about their material life, some of them may feel empty inside. I don't take photos for money, but make them feel being cared about. That's why they value the photos so much."

Nonetheless, it's not an easy job. Some of the old people may feel reluctant. Some couldn't stop shaking long enough to make a pose. Liu would stand on the chair for the best angles of bedridden seniors. For everyone of them, Liu captures their brightest smiles.

An elderly woman receiving her photo /CGTN

An elderly woman receiving her photo /CGTN

The seniors in the nursing homes treat Liu as a family member. "An auntie there, who used to be a teacher, has cerebellar atrophy," Liu said, "She basically can't remember anything in a blink. When I gave her the photos and asked if she remembered me, she smiled, saying 'Of course, you were the one who took photos for me.' I didn't expect that. Neither did the director, who was speechless. She looked at the photos carefully, before she put them on the bed, her eyes fixed on them. She seemed to really love them."

"Taking photos is as easy as pie for young people, but it may be the last memories of the elderly in the world," Liu said. So far, he has taken photos for over 1,000 old people. He believes that what he does is nothing special. Even though he may occasionally fail in the race against time, the smiles of these old people continue to be the best reward for him.

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

Director:Liu Yangyang

Editor:Ma Mingyuan, Gao Xingzi

Filmed by: Wang Yunfei

Designer:Hu Cong

Article Written by: Zhu Siqi

Copy editor: Henry Weimin

Producer:Wen Yaru

Chief Editor:  Zhao Jianfu

Supervisor:Pang Xinhua

The story is one in The 1.3 Billion series exploring the diverse lives that make up China.

The story is one in The 1.3 Billion series exploring the diverse lives that make up China.