I was scrolling through my Facebook feed at 2 am on June 4, when I saw an article on “12 Photos From the Tiananmen Square Protests China Wants You to Forget.” Most of the photos were of things like burning tanks, bloody students, bodies in the streets. Scenes of confrontation and conflict, students vs. soldiers.
Images like these were what I had always pictured when thinking of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Images of the crackdown. Of Tank Man. Of student hunger strikers sitting in the square, strips of cloth marked with slogans wrapped around their heads, cloth shoes on their feet.
This was how I thought of Tiananmen until last year, when I found a black film canister inside an old shoebox I had inherited from my parents. Inside were photos that my uncle, an art student in Beijing, had taken in the weeks before the Tiananmen Square massacre. He had hidden them away and somehow gotten them out of China to my parents. Then they sat there for 25 years, waiting to be seen.