China's Disappearing 'Bang Bang' Men

Thursday November 28, 2019 Written by James

You’ll spot them every morning near the harbour in Chongqing, China. Hundreds of men waiting around, cradling giant bamboo poles known as bangzi.

These are China’s ‘Bang Bang’ men, the porters who have been carrying groceries, water, shipping crates, tourist suitcases and basically anything else for the last thousand-odd years. Whenever somebody in Chongqing needs to move something heavy, they just scream “Bang Bang!” until a friendly pole arrives.

Chongqing is a multi-layered city – an interconnected labyrinth of narrow staircases, pedestrian bridges, steep alleys and dead ends. The human foot has been the best way to move something from A to B here for centuries. Or at least, it used to be. The Bang Bang men are slowly beginning to disappear: modern transport and courier companies have seen their number shrink from hundreds of thousands to just over 10,000.

Danish photographer Ken Hermann travelled to Chongqing to document this dying profession (figuratively speaking – the Bang Bang men are perfectly healthy). His photo series is a moody reminder that progress always comes with casualties.

You can check out more of Ken’s work at kenhermann.dk