A Woman Stumbled Across Never-Before-Seen Photos Of The Tiananmen Square Protests In A Shoebox

The negatives sat undeveloped for 25 years.

1. Previously unseen images of the student protests in Tiananmen Square have been found in an old shoebox by New York-based copywriter Shelley Zhang.

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

A hopeful demonstrator, just weeks before the massacre.

2. Shelley told BuzzFeed: “I found the photos Sunday night, when I was in my basement looking through boxes of photos that I had inherited from my parents.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

Shelley Zhang’s uncle in Tiananmen Square, somewhere between May 30 and June 3, 1989.

3. “I was writing an article for The Toast on my father and Tiananmen Square, so I was trying to find childhood photos.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

Shelley was born in Lanzhou, China, in 1983 and came to the United States in 1986 to join her graduate student parents in Ohio. The family stayed in America because of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

4. “[I looked] in a shoebox I found a black film canister. When I held the negatives up to the light and realized what I was seeing, I had this moment of complete disbelief.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

The sash reads, “Only by speaking up can we have democracy.”

5. “I had never heard that these photos even existed.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

6. “I wasn’t 100% sure what I had until I finally got them back from the photo lab Tuesday night. I was so happy to have found a piece of my history that had been lost for so long.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

“The Goddess of Democracy” in Tiananmen Square.

7. “I don’t know how my parents ended up with the photos. It’s possible that my uncle could have sent them through the mail.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

A banner telling people to “Wake up!”

8. “I think they weren’t developed because the pictures would have been taken just days before the tanks rolled into the square.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

9. “And after that happened, it would have been dangerous to have them.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

10. “I think I underestimated how much interest there would be in the photos.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

11. “The timing of finding them right before the 25th anniversary of the massacre was pretty amazing.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

12. “I’m deeply interested in China and human rights issues in China, so they were incredible to me, but I think Tiananmen is significant to more people than I realized, partly because of images like Tank Man.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

“I have a younger sister who lives with me now, she was born in the U.S. in 1990. Because of China’s one-child policy, she probably wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t stayed here.”

13. “Everyone who has seen these photos has been really supportive and many people have thanked me for sharing them.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

14. “I really do hope that they help people feel closer to the event, to remember it, especially because so many people in China can’t.”

Shelley Zhang / Via thechinagirls.wordpress.com

You can see more of the photos on Shelley’s blog.


She’s also on Twitter.

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