With “Dream Machine,” Beijing-based Dutch photographer Ruben Lundgren examines—not without a hint of humor—the human fascination with machines and new technologies. Consisting of 35 old portrait photographs painstakingly collected via antique markets and websites over a period of ten years, “Dream Machine” takes a closer look at the infatuation of the Chinese population with modern machinery—cars, motorbikes, airplanes, television sets. The photographs in the book were originally taken in photography studios (which began to spread across Chinese cities like Hanzhou in the 1930s) in front of elaborate sets and painted backgrounds. Each photograph in the book is embedded in an illustration that adds a further touch of technological infatuation, to be pulled back and bring back the reality of the photo studio.
“We can only imagine how mind-blowing it would have been to have witnessed the arrival of the first ever automobiles in China. Over a century ago, city folk and ordinary farmers must have stopped whatever they were doing to admire the mysterious vehicle which moved seemingly without human effort … Generally speaking, they enthusiastically embraced new trends that were then pragmatically woven into the fabric of everyday life. Luxury imports were used by elites as visual evidence of social status, while cheap imitations satisfied the demand for new products among ordinary people: both were absorbed into a culture that without the tangible and craved the new …
This album consists of 35 photographs I collected at antique markets and via websites in China over the past decade. The colourful graphics are copied from an album originally produced in the 1960s which offers a historical tour along the banks of the famous West Lake. The portraits capture the futuristic appeal that machines like cars, planes or televisions once had. Like the invention of the internet, smartphone or e-bike in recent decades, most innovations slowly slip away into the common present.”
― from Ruben Lundgren’s afterword