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Xiaoxiao Xu: DIY-planes in the Chinese countryside

Xiaoxiao Xu (1984) followed eight Chinese farmers who build their own airplanes from their backyard. She was fascinated by their inventiveness and resourcefulness.

25 October, 2016
Text: Guido van Eijck

Why do the stories of these farmers appeal to you?
‘I love how they independently seek to fulfil their dreams, right in their own backyard with recycled materials and garden shed tools. They make the impossible possible.’

How did the farmers receive you?
‘They were very friendly. Xu Bin invited me to stay with his family. On the first day he showed me the city. On the second day I joined him to work. On the third day he took me to city hall to apply for funding for his project. And on the fourth day he took me to his wife’s village. In this way you get closer to someone. I listen, I observe, and at the right moment I press the shutter.’

Is there a farmer whose memory you particularly hold dear?
‘I will always remember Xu Bin. He is quiet and smart and realizes his dream step by step. He was eighteen years old when he started building planes. Now he’s forty and can live off his airplanes. He even opened an airplane museum in his hometown. I flew with Xu Bin in his plane The White Dragon. It was a dizzying and unforgettable experience.’