Families Pose Next to Everything They’ve Ever Bought Online
China has the world’s largest army of online shoppers, with its citizens spending some $450 billion on e-commerce sites last year alone. That’s a ton of clothes, gadgets and toilet paper. Photographer Huang Qingjun decided to document their conquests in his series Online Shopping Family Stuff.
The photos show Chinese men, women, and children posing near or inside their homes alongside every item they’ve ever bought on the web. There are everyday sundries like cleaning supplies and slippers, as well as more indulgent purchases like iPhones and drones. “Internet shopping is influencing everyone’s daily life more and more—not just in big cities but also in rural areas,” Qingjun says. “I thought it would be interesting to record this social phenomenon.”
Qinjun began the series in January, visiting a total of 14 homes. He would either tap his friends to introduce him to potential subjects or knock on random doors of houses he found unique and explained the project. “Some people understood what I was doing, but some didn’t,” he says. “Sometimes I was refused.”
He and an assistant carefully searched each home with the residents, removing online purchases and lining them up outside. He tried to place smaller and more utilitarian objects in front to create an orderly progression of scale, then photographed it with his Nikon digital camera before putting everything back. The whole process could take up to 10 hours.
The resulting images whimsically capture people, their possessions and their living environment in just one shot. It also offers a window into their passions. In one photo, a woman named Liu Chunxiao stands with her young son in the snow, surrounded by toys and clothing she’s purchased for him. Qinjung explains that to her, “online shopping is a special way to express love.” In another image, a man named Huang Jianguang poses next to his cycling gear. He’s spent some 40,000 yuan (or roughly $6,300) online in support of his biking hobby, which has taken him across 50,000 miles of 18 provinces.
There have been many photo series of people posing with their possessions and goods. But Online Shopping Family Stuff hints at the wave of fortune transforming China. In 2014, the nation’s per-capita disposable income grew by 10.1 percent and its Internet users also increased from 618 million to 649 million. That number is only expected to grow, as a little less than half of all Chinese internet users still haven’t made the jump to online shopping, and the majority of all Chinese people still don’t have Internet access.
As that happens, and as the world continues to become one big online shopping mall, Chinese families in the country and city alike will have access to the same goods. Online shopping, Qinjung says, is “changing the socio-economic model.”