Stefen Chow and Huiyi Lin measure the poverty line in photos

In 2010, photographer Stefen Chow and economist Huiyi Lin, originally from Singapore, were living in Beijing and witnessing society undergoing one of the biggest economic transformations of the last century.

The fast pace of change in their adopted home inspired the couple to turn back to basics—food. They came up with the idea of purchasing items at the market for 3.28 RMB (0.48 USD), a daily budget equal to what someone living on the national poverty line that year could spend. Arranging the meats, produce, and steamed buns they brought home on the day’s newspapers, the husband-wife team snapped photos which they uploaded to their website.

A decade later, their award-winning project The Poverty Line has documented food choices that can be purchased at the poverty line in 35 countries, and the couple’s photographs have been exhibited worldwide. As they prepare to publish a book titled after their project in 2021, Chow and Lin sat down with TWOC at their Beijing studio to discuss their inspiration.

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Drawing the Line is a story from our issue, “Contagion.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Emily Conrad is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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