Mingong. The Pursuit of Happiness

PhotographerWolfgang Mueller
PrizeBook Proposal (series Only) / Documentary
Entry Description

200 Millions of migrant workers, called Mingong in Chinese, have moved from the poor rural regions to China's industrial centers. About a period of several years Wolfgang Mueller followed some of them in their private and work lives. The pictures capture the scope of China's domestic migration as well as the everyday reality it entails. Against the backdrop of harsh living conditions, the 2012 published photo book presents intimate portraits of the struggles and dreams of individual workers.

About Photographer

Participating in social movements and working as a toolmaker in Frankfurt/ Main Wolfgang Mueller found his access to photography whilst traveling. While studying photography at the University of Applied Sciences, Dortmund in the class of Prof. Arno Fischer, he turned to the countries of the former Soviet Union as the focus of his work. After a work about homelessness in Odessa/ Ukraine he spent for his graduate project totally ten month photographing "Karat. Sky over St. Petersburg". The work about children and teenagers between homelessness, drug use and prostitution finally has been published as a photo book by Nazraeli Press|Portland in 2003. With the help of several promotion prizes Wolfgang Mueller, heading East could proceed his work in Siberia and since 2005 in China. Actually his long time project about Migrant Workers in China has been published as a photobook by Vice Versa|Berlin, “Mingong. The Pursuit of Happiness”. „The photographs do not celebrate their misery. These pictures cannot be reduced to messages because they are too open-ended and too multilayered. The viewer is invited to explore the various picture planes and to jump back and forth. Areas of tender color and scenes of intimacy are juxtaposed with brutal reality, often suggested only in the surrounding context, in small details, or in the ambiguity of a gesture.(…)The possible answer, if any, to the misery and violence depicted in this work must be found in the language of the images. The pictorial language does not try to reinforce the viewer’s stereotypical concepts of street children, but instead gives the viewer the freedom to move inside the images in order to form his or her own opinion.” Catalogue book, Houston FotoFest 2006.