China’s “godfather of train photography” Wang Fuchun , whose portraits of travellers on China’s railways garnered worldwide fame, died in Beijing on Saturday at the age of 79 from an undisclosed illness. Starting his career as a railway worker in the 1970s, Wang, who won both domestic and international awards in photography, had spent over 40 years taking pictures of people from different walks of life on trains, providing a portrait of Chinese society during a time of radical transformation. A winner of the Golden Statue Award for China Photography, the top award for individual photographers in China, Wang travelled all across the country and documented glimpses of everyday life on the country’s railway carriages. “Photography isn’t complicated. Basically, you look for what inspires you and take a picture. It’s all about the act. Nothing technical, nothing complicated,” he told SCMP’s Post Magazine in 2018 . His best-known collection, Chinese on the Train, a photography book published in 2001, won him the Special Contribution Award of the International Photographers Association of Los Angeles. With works exhibited in Europe and the US, he was also listed as one of the 30 most influential Asian photographers by Asia’s leading photography platform, Invisible Photographer Asia. From steam locomotives to bullet trains, images taken by Wang showcased the cultural, economic, and social changes that took place in a period when China rose rapidly as an economic power. “In the late 1970s and early 1980s, what I photographed was all Jiefang suit and Jiefang cap (green attire worn by the People’s Liberation Army), or Zhongshan suit (advocated by Dr Sun Yat-sen). Everyone wore the same thing and looked the same,” he told Photo World , a monthly photography magazine under Xinhua news agency in 2014. “Then by the end of the 1980s, people started keeping long hair and wearing boot cut pants. And when the 1990s came, the clothes people wore became more diversified and fashionable. It was a time when people started looking different from each other. “This is what we call great social changes,” he said. Born in China’s northeast in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, Wang graduated from a vocational railway college in 1970 and worked as a carriage inspector. His artistic talent soon saw him working as a graphic designer for the railway bureau in Sankeshu, a town in Heilongjiang. However, his career as a documentary photographer began in 1977, when he was tasked with photographing trains as part of his job. Since then he and his camera have travelled more than 100,000 kilometers on 1,000 trains, according to an article he wrote for leading Chinese photo agency China Image Center in 2017. “I have special feelings for the railway,” he said. “My lens has always focused on the dashing trains and the people inside since I started as a photographer in 1977,” he said. “I’m grateful I caught the speeding train of the times as soon as I started as a photographer, that I managed to document all kinds of Chinese people on the trains and witnessed the great changes of railway amid China’s reform and opening-up,” he wrote. Other collections of his work, including The People of Northeast China and Black Earth , have also won him praise at photography festivals in China. In the new millennium he started documenting people on subways, featuring the fast-paced life in major mainland cities as well as Hong Kong.