Smile! You’re being watched

Kira Golikova

I came to China in October of 2019 to work as an English teacher at a training center. Every day at the office I had to upload my selfie into an app that identified my facial expression, geolocation and time of arrival.  The app rated my smile from 0 to 100 points. The winner of the day could see the selfies of the other employees. I also had to inform my bosses about my trips outside of the city. All of the purchases made and financial activities that occurred on my bank cards were recorded.

When the coronavirus outbreak initially happened, I was not in the least bit surprised to see temperature checks taken by security at the gates of my residential complex. The authorities quickly implemented an online check-in system at public transport, supermarkets, and residential complexes. Due to my lack of Chinese communication skills, I was confused by the situation and initially I was afraid to leave home. Once I saw my Chinese neighbors climbing over a small fence in a parking lot to get into the park for a walk so I followed the example. I started taking pictures secretly by my camera or smartphone instead of taking them openly as before. These random shots didn’t interest  anyone else, however, they created an alternative visual set to the rated smiles of the office app.

February 2020
Zhengzhou, CN

Photography in Light of the Pandemic