Yan Cong

The People behind Automation
Location: Beijing
Nationality: China
Biography: Yan Cong (b.1991) is an independent photographer based in Beijing, where she was born and raised. She focuses most of her long-term projects on women’s issues, rural China, and China’s relations with its neighbors.  In 2015, Yan was... read on
Public Story
The People behind Automation
Credits: yan cong
Date of Work: 10/31/18 - 11/01/18
Updated: 08/17/19
Archived as: 
From iPhone’s Face ID to Deep Fake, AI technologies are so closely connected with imagery, yet too abstract to photograph. When I visited data labeling factories on assignment for The New York Times, I found this job fascinating, and the assignment evolved into a personal project.

China is developing and applying Artificial Intelligence technologies faster than any other countries in the world. To help machines to make sense of the world, cheap labors are hired to label almost everything, from pens to traffic lights, from walking pedestrians to spare parts on assembly lines. The workers call themselves the “construction workers in the digital world,” in a New York Times story. By putting data labeling workers and the screen they look at side by side, this project aims to present the contrast of human and machine, and to explore the irony of machine learning and automation: what roles do we play in this increasingly automated world?

By Yan Cong —


The Real Man Club

By Yan Cong — Tang Haiyan founded the Real Man Training Club to combat what he and others in China see as a masculinity crisis. On a cold winter day, I went on..

The Hanfu Revival

By Yan Cong — Hanfu, a retro-style dress that the Han majority wore before Qing Dynasty (1644). In the past few years, China has seen a growing movement to revive..


By Yan Cong — A series of single images

The Price of Happiness [Multimedia]

By Yan Cong — When Buntha left Cambodia to marry a Chinese man, she did so for money, not for love. Thirty-two years old at the time, and never married, she had..

A Cambodian Bride in China

By Yan Cong — Three years ago, when Sophorn arrived in China, not knowing the country, the language or the culture, she knew the face of the Chinese man she was..

If China Builds It, Will the Arab World Come?

By Yan Cong — An assignment for a news analysis on ChinaFile on the development of cultural tourism in Ningxia, the only Hui Muslim autonomous region in China,..

The Military Parade

By Yan Cong — For the first time in 70 years, China decided to celebrate the victory of WWII with a military parade. During the run-up to the event, Beijing got..


By Yan Cong — Feb 2014

Sunset Park Dreaming (Ongoing)

By Yan Cong — Work in progress: Aug 2014 – Now A Puerto Rican American family's life in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and the coming of age story of the..

Navigating Elopement

By Yan Cong — For Children with autism, "elopement" refers to the behavior of wandering off from a safe environment. A recent study found that almost half of the..

"Lite Feet" on the train

By Yan Cong — "Lite Feet" is a genre of dance originated in Harlem. A group of 15 Lite Feet dancers, mainly black young men at the age of 17 to early 20s, from..
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