Yining He is a professional writer, photographer and curator of Go East Project. Working in the media industry, she has covered stories all over China and Europe for many leading magazines, newspapers and organisations. Yining graduated with an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the London College of Communication. She specializes in telling stories on multiple platforms using text, photography, archive material and social media. Her works has been seen in group and solo exhibitions in China, USA and England. She is now working on Go East project, which is a blog offering updated news on contemporary Chinese photography on a weekly basis.
Is all that we see or seem,
But a dream within a dream?
Edgar Allan Poe
My friend Camille SHANGGUAN has been learning Kunqu Opera from a master for eight years. Being an intellect instead of a professional actress, she sees this ancient performance art not as a form to entertain others, but as a way to create a lucid dream within the hustle and bustle of modern life.
The first time I listened to Camille singing Kunqu Opera was in a small gathering of friends. There were no dramatic lights or stage settings, nor dashing costumes. Only herself, sitting in the centre of the group. She took a breath, and the enchanting voice that followed had us all spellbound. She chanted a verse from , the most-known Kunqu Opera masterpiece created in Ming Dynasty, which starts with a fair maiden’s dream to find love.
We all hold dreams in our hearts, trivial or noble. We share the experience of pursuing dreams, even though we have to make compromises when faced with the reality. The chanting of Kunqu Opera offers a rare remedy, for both the singer and the listeners, a breathing space parallel with the present. To me, Camille’s chanting is a unique channel leading me away from here and now. I believe that, in a moment of synesthesia, I see the world around me a bit differently, which is what I try to capture on the films. Whenever she starts her chanting, it seems, we are magically transported to another space and another time. It could be the remote past, or it could be our imagery backyard. Or, are we not in a dream within a dream?
Zhou Yang (born. 1985) is a photographer, writer and translator. Graduated from MA in Photojournalism, University of Westminster, Zhou Yang had intensive working experiences in the media industry. She was photo editor of EllEMEN magazine and editor in International Channel Shanghai. She is currently working closely with City Pictorial, Travel + Leisure, Time-Weekly, Travel & Photographer and many other magazines in China. Zhou Yang is also translator of Annie Leibovitz at Work by Annie Leibovitz.
Let the Orange In
Hard Cover, 52 pages, 41 color plates, 25x20cm
Self published, Nottingham UK, Jul 2012
“It’s easy to lost the joy of photography since we are doing so hard – trudged thousands of miles, wrestling with different compositions, staging for large scenes, manipulating a single image all day long; while it is much easier to forget the reason of taking photographs when serious documentary, mass advertising and fine art market were taking advantages of photography itself.”
__ Grey Chen, Let the Orange in
Let the Orange in is the photobook made by photographer Grey Chen — the essential collection of her photography project about Light. In this project, she has been taking photographs of the scenes with light illuminated since 2010. While the fondness of light must be dated back much earlier, just as she mentioned in the book — sometimes, light is the only inspiration since most of the things are quicker to get tired with after long period of study.
British typical haze weathers awakened her deep desires of sunshine in the beginning, and then she started thinking about the connections between sunlights and emotions. Afterwards, her research went to the direction if the color of light could work instead of light itself in photography – since nothing could be seen without light, while in color photography, light becomes colors after processing. That is why Grey used Orange to replace Sunshie in the title – Let the Orange in. The relationships among light, objects, colors and emotions are what she has interests in.
It is intriguing that her book has haunted me since the first look — the warm fading orange cover, the photographs recorded scarce sunshine fulfilling British people’s daily life, the oily bacon and egg in the morning sunshine, the mouldy lemon slices in the sunset. Grey is a master playing with color photography — she turns the gentlest daily scenes into dynamic photographs, creating a world fulfilling with light, keeping our eyes open for her love of the world.
Grey Chen (灰小), MA in Photography in Nottingham Trent University, UK; BA (Second Year) in Graphic Design, Camberwell College of Arts, University of Arts London. Her works have been selected in several exhibitions in Europe, mainly UK.
See more, www.greychen.com
Let the Orange in是由摄影师Grey Chen创作且自行出版的摄影画册，此书选取了她的摄影项目“光”中的主要作品。从2010年起，她便开始了不断追寻光的旅程。而对光的热爱，其实始于更早的时候。正如她在书的后记中所提，对事物关注过久总会让人容易感到厌倦，唯有光是她永恒的灵感。
英国典型的阴霾天气唤醒了她对阳光的深深渴望，促使她开始思考光线和情绪的关系。尔后，她的研究方向走上颜色是否能代替光线本身来作用——因为万物离开光线便不存在（不可被看见）。在彩色摄影中，呈现在底片上的光经过冲印之后便呈现为颜色。这也是为什么在标题Let the Orange in中，Grey用Orange(光的常见色)来代替光线本身。光、被摄物、颜色和情绪，这四者的关系，正是她的兴趣点。
Go East: 50 Contemporary Photobooks from China 2009-2014
FORMAT International Photography Festival
Curator: Yining He
China has a fascinating history of photobook publishing. As Martin Parr considers, China is a forgotten land of photobook that no one knew about. The Chinese Photobook exhibition, coproduced by the Rencontre d’Arles and Aperture, revealed for the first time the richness and diversity of this heritage.
Entering the new millennium, China as the world’s second largest economy is undergoing the most rapid urbanization. As a result of these emerging challenges and creative energies, contemporary Chinese photography has flourished into one of the most vibrant art forms of our time. In the meantime, the publishing of independent photobook among young photographers has become a trend over the past five years. At the early stage, some Chinese photographers published photo-books with the aid of overseas galleries and independent publishing companies. Zen Foto Books is an example; it was established in Tokyo in 2009, specializing in Asian photography with a particular emphasis on China. They successively published photo-books for several Chinese photographers, including Lin Shu’s Toxic and Zhang Yuming’s The Ancient Tower. Didier Quarroz from Switzerland founded Sandmeier Press in Zurich in 2011, and soon afterwards he moved to Shanghai to cooperate with active local photographers and publish photo-books. Meanwhile, independent publishing companies that emerged in China, such as Banana Fish, Gooooodies and Jia Za Zhi Press, are constantly discovering distinctive Chinese photographers and helping them with photo-books publishing. In addition, some photographers choose to express their ideas by means of handmade books. Zhu Lanqing is a youngish photographer born in 1991, and she attained Three Shadow Photography Awards with A Journey in Reverse Direction, a sophisticatedly complied handmade book.
50 Contemporary Photobooks from China is aimed at collectively presenting the photo-books created by Chinese photographers from 2009 to 2014 to audience in the UK and the Europe. Photographers that attend the exhibition are from all parts of China and living in different cities in the world, and thus they have a diversity of academic and professional backgrounds. Some of the artists graduated from domestic universities and have experiences as a journalistic photographer; some others were born in the 1990s and went to the Europe or America for photographic education soon after they graduated from high school. Most of the 50 photo-books at the exhibition are produced by independent publishing companies, among which there are photo-books that the photographers print through companies like Blurb or local printing houses; also, there are quite many handmade by the photographers. The works gathered in the 50 photo-books have covered nearly all genres of contemporary photography, including portraits, landscape, fashion, documentary, conceptual and so forth. Albeit these photo-books are not all produced in China, the subject matters centre on the contemporary discourses of China without exception. Photography has long been deemed as the evidence of recording the reality, and the photo-books keep such evidence permanently. 50 Contemporary Photo-books from China is trying to present the lateral of Chinese contemporary photography by virtue of “evidence”, the theme of FORMAT Festival 2015.
It is designed as an integral exhibition that showcases photobooks, selected photography and multimedia works. 50 Contemporary Photobooks from China is more than an exhibition that reports the gradations of Chinese photography; moreover, I hope to spark a series of discussions via the exhibition. It is trying to examine the historical, social and visual discourses of Chinese independent photobook publication industry by exploring the interrelationships of photographers, publishers, consumers and the photographic industries. By looking into the current trend of independent and self-publishing photobook movement in China, we can address the following questions: How did the independent photobook trend start in China? What is the social and cultural background behind the industry? How does small presses like Jia Za Zhi Press shape the business of contemporary photobook in China? What are the roles of the photography galleries and art schools in response to such trend?
During the process of preparing the proposal, I received great supports from many photographers and publishers. I wish to assemble the youthful forces of Chinese photography through this opportunity and create an exhibition of the international standards. In addition, I plan to print a catalogue of the exhibition for selling on the site. Furthermore, subsequent to the FORMAT International Photography Festival 2015, 50 Contemporary Photobooks from China will be on itinerant exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities in China.
Photography and Curiosity
Essay by Yining He
Translated by Nianping Tian
“Curiosity is an ambiguous passion: the virtuous impulse behind the search for knowledge and at the same time a disreputable desire for novelty and strangeness.” This is how curiosity was defined in the exhibition called Curiosity: Art & the Pleasures of Knowing in Hayward Gallery, the U.K. In Chinese dictionaries, to be curious is to be interested in new and unfamiliar things, or to be unconventional. This Chinese expression originates from Wang Chong, a philosopher in the Western Han Dynasty. In his book On Balance, he writes “The pursuit of unconventional things will never end, making those things everlasting.”
In 2013, the 211th issue of Aperture focused on the curiosity in photography. In the preface, the editor wrote “Photography has long served as a medium of choice not only for the curious practitioner, but also for his or her audience, whose curiosity may be either aroused or appeased by an image.” As early as the 1960s, Richard Cumming, the artist who aroused my interest in the fancy of photography, used scenery to reproduce the connections among different objects, creating film-like visual languages. Later, I was attracted by the absurd and meaningful works from photographer Joan Fontcuberta, who is an expert in raising curiosity. The documentary photography stories he created during the past three decades used visual languages, including advertisements, museum displays and scientific magazines, and combined the reality with romance. All those works challenged science, the symbol of authority. Curiosity encourages people to know the world, and photography is the driving force for this exploration. In the recent Shanghai Photo, as an audience, I closely appreciated the lunar exploration photos provided by NASA. Those magnificent images excited me and satisfied my curiosity.
Curiosity stems from our most direct sensory experiences. Photographer Lin Weixi thought about dimensions of pictures in her Stereo. She provided us with a serious of sensory experiences in our daily life. They seem irrelevant at first sight, but interconnected with each other. Known Unknowns originated from careful observations of graphic designer Hu Xiaoqin. The gorgeous world became abstract in her eyes and she transformed it into patterns in her unique photographic style. At the same time, with the observation and experience of the photographer, curiosity was given more profound contents by her images. Yang Qingqing concentrated on the tiny sparkling objects she met. Driven by her curiosity, she photographed them and edited them in her Sparkling. Li Yuqi’s Temperature Differences presented us the nomadic life in the grand Hulunbuir Grasslands with vague imageries and warm tones. She said she had never thought that it would become a series of work. It has no theory description; it is entwined with her body’s perception. The perception is the initial urge for her photography: connecting with others, and connecting with herself.
Cities are always the paradise for explorations.Mark8:24 was edited by Ma Yinni when she was studying at London College of Communication. Through the presentation of the materialistic urban life, her work explored the real spiritual life of human beings. The photographer used strong contrasts to raise our curiosity and to see how vision can lead audiences to different thoughts. Meanwhile, the night in a city has another sight. Since 2013, young photographer 9 mouth began to take pictures of female nudes in city at night. In Night Tour, 9 mouth put little female bodies in massive city architectures. Through the strong comparison, he presented his thought upon independence in metropolis. Li Chaoyu, who lived in Walla Walla, a typical American town for four years, took pictures for those common architectures in that small town. Domestic Nightscape captured and magnified the contrast of luminosity and the interweaving of colors from different light sources of architectures, making those quiet blocks and middle-class tract houses dreary and mind numbing at night. Their original materiality started to become abstract till the moment when the two sides of those architectures were perfectly balanced.
Memories sometimes guide photographers back to their childhoods or make them think about the reality. Memory and present entwine with each other, so do reality and romance. Fascinated about the surroundings and curious about the reality, Huang Dongli rethought about the real world through his project. shows a kind of non-linear narrative documentary which exposes the subtle relations among objects. In Wu Shankun’s Innocent Youth, the photographer tried to use abstract images to explore our endowed curiosities. For him, this work is rather a dairy of subconsciousness than a collection of images. He presented his private memories step by step and felt that the past could stay, allowing him to see his youth afar. Some artists created interesting images through digital collage. They combined photos with varies elements and made interesting works. Kayan Kwok is an artist, illustration and a graphic designer based in Hong Kong. A Poster a Day is from a project called “A poster per day for 365 days” which makes a poster per day till it hit 365 days. This project is not a professional work about photography, however, it is a practice of collage. By redesigning photos from 1900 to 1970, the photographer successfully brought creative ideas, mysteries and memories to a multi-dimensional space.
This exhibition is jointly held by Go East Project and Dusk Dawn Club. We gathered works of 10 photographers from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Tai Wan to explore the practice of curiosity in modern photography. As an online institution dedicated to building a platform of photography, Go East Project encourages the young to explore the world through photography. At the same time, by cooperating with Dusk Dawn Club, we hope to arouse audiences’ resonance by group exhibition.
Go East Project × DDC presents
Curiosity | Photography Exhibition
November 8, 2014-December 9, 2014
Opening: 15:30, November 8
“好奇心是一个模糊的激情：它是一种隐藏在对知识的探索背后的良性冲动，以及对新奇和陌生感声名狼藉的渴望。”. 这是艺术展《好奇：艺术与求知的愉悦》（Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing）在英国Hayward Gallery举办时为“好奇心”下的定义；而在中文的辞典中，“好奇”一词带有对自己不熟悉的事物新奇而感兴趣，或有喜欢标新立异之意，取自汉王充《论衡·案书》：“好奇无己，故奇名无穷。”
In the last ten years, fuelled by international dealers and collectors, the market for contemporary Chinese photography has grown rapidly with a booming economy. Chinese new landscape photographers smartly recreated traditional Chinese landscape paintings by employing a variety of digital photography techniques and aesthetic strategies to acquire the attention of art curators, critics and photography dealers. However, only until relatively recently, a group of young practitioners have taken a different approach to landscape photography, which has set them apart from the majority of their counterparts. For example, we can look at two key figures of this movement, Zhang Jin and Taca Sui, whose work adapted the form of photography in accordance with Chinese philosophical and aesthetic concepts. Despite their contribution to contemporary Chinese photography, little has been written about their issues. Based on the social, historical and contemporary experience, this essay identifies and illustrates the main features of their approach in creating a new vision of Chinese contemporary landscape photography.
The first part of essay offers a brief overview of this new movement by introducing Zhang Jin and Taca Sui’s work. The second part of the essay places an emphasis on their landscape photography practices, basing my research on the differences between Chinese and Western philosophy and culture – although the aim of the essay is not only primarily to show the differences between Chinese and Western landscape art. Finally, this essay examines how Zhang Jin and Taca Sui’s practice suit the niche market of the contemporary photography industry.
II. New Movement of Chinese Landscape Photography
Of all the different practices of Chinese contemporary photography —— fashion, documentary, portraiture and so on —— none is richer and more famous than landscape. Entering the new millennium, as the world’s second largest economy, China has been undergoing the most rapid urbanization. As a result of these emerging challenges and creative energies, contemporary Chinese landscape photography has flourished into one of the most vibrant art forms of our time. Many photographers focus on the urban landscape to express their feelings towards related issues such as construction and deconstruction in the cities, environmental challenges as well as many others.
An inaugural photography exhibition titled Open Frame: New Landscape Photography from China was held in Yavuz Fine Art Gallery in Singapore, 2010. This large-scale landscape photography exhibition featured 43 works that reflected the life and social changes of contemporary China：
… The artists included in Open Frame, though at varying stages of their respective careers, all use facets of the landscape – real, imagined, urban, industrial, pastoral, heavenly or watery – to reveal China today.
In spite of the fact that western curators, critics and photography dealers are seemly obsessed with manipulated or sharply contrasted landscape photographs, frequently coined as “Chinese Aesthetics”, Zhang Jin and Taca Sui are using different approaches to their photography practice. Instead of creating sharply contrasted urban landscapes. They had both trekked to distant landscapes in China and created a series of photographs of landscape using the pleasure of the imagination.
Zhang Jin (b.1978) is a freelance photographer based in Chengdu. In 2012, he was awarded the most prestigious photography award in China initiated by Three Shadows Photography Center, which attracted approximately 358 candidates last year. Zhang Jin traveled through the eastern section of the ancient Silk Road from Xi’an to Yangguan during 2010 to 2013. Whilst he was there, he positioned himself inside the landscapes of his imagination and shot a photo series entitled Another Season during the year. As he mentioned at the beginning of his work statement: ‘it’s the road of Buddhism coming to China, where I find my enthusiasm for the grand desert. Moreover, it has my encounter with the unknown landscape’（Zhang, 2012).
Taca Sui, another key figure of this movement, currently has a solo exhibition at Chambers New York from 7th March to 19th April 2013. His latest photo series titled Odes is the culmination of seven small projects that were inspired by the Book of Odes (Shi Jing) – the oldest Chinese book of songs, poems and hymns. Taca spent almost three years following an itinerary based on places named in the text and visited them one after another to take thousands of photographs. As the artist said: ‘during the shoot, it was almost as if my emotions and artistic direction were under the influence of some unknown force’ (Sui, 2012).
Although they both came from an American education background, Zhang Jin and Taca Sui’s work is the adaptation of photography to Chinese philosophical and aesthetic concepts – especially through a dialogue with different kinds of representation found in various Chinese poetry and painting. In an artist statement published in Zhang Jin’s personal website:
There are traces from the ancient civilization and the most important is an exploration for a seer. There are also natural creatures, which persistently and simply exist everywhere regardless of the dynasty or nation changes over time, with the primitive strength born from basic instinct (Zhang, 2012).
Yizhong Ruan, was one of the main judges of Three Shadow Photography Award 2012, which included Hilla Becher and Christopher Phillip. Yizhong Ruan commented on Zhang Jin’s photo series Another Season: ‘his pictures of emptiness traces the life of ancient Chinese and involve viewers to make a dialogue with history’ (Ruan, 2012). Meanwhile, in explaining Odes, Taca Sui also emphasized the relation between Chinese philosophy and his project. ‘After several months of textual and geographical research, I was alarmed to find myself falling into the vast artificial construct of annotations and commentaries built by generations of Confucian scholars’ (Sui, 2012).
Both Zhang Jin and Taca’s photographs indicate a trend to resist the manipulation of digital technology. With a soft contrast between landscapes and the pale ground, they evoke the aesthetic of Chinese traditional brush-and-ink painting by using traditional blank and white photography.
The formal austerity and timeless subject matter of Taca Sui’s work sets him apart from the great majority of his contemporaries, relating him to the earlier masters of the medium rather than to current practitioners of manipulated photography (Chamber Fine Art, 2013).
III. From Chinese Cultural Roots
Landmark: A Stroll Through the Fields of Photography takes place at the Somerset House in London. Curated by William A. Ewing, the exhibition featured images by 81 international photographers with a multitude of interests in this field. This included photographers such as Edward Burynsky, Robert Adams, Simon Norfolk, Thomas Struth and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among the many masters featured in the show. Meanwhile, the exhibition showcased a few iconic photographs created by Yao Lu, Yang Yongliang and Liu Xiaofang；three leading contemporary Chinese photographers in the field. Not surprisingly, viewers can see the differences between Chinese and Western landscape photography reflected in the subjects, creative ideas, artistic expressions and so forth. Obviously, cultural differences between Chinese and Western landscape art have manifested in their own form of expression and aesthetic characteristics. Zhang Jin and Taca Sui both carry the practice of ‘Literati-Graphics’ into their photo series and it becomes a defining characteristic of this new moment. Thus, based on research into the differences between Chinese and Western philosophy and culture, the following paragraphs illustrate that Zhang Jin and Taca Sui’s landscape practices find their roots in traditional Chinese culture.
First of all, there are differences in subject matter in Western and Chinese landscape art. Western landscape as a genre in art began to emerge at the end of the fifteenth century, covering a variety of subjects. Looking at Sense of Place, one of the most influential contemporary landscape photography exhibitions held in Brussels in 2012, it shows a vast and wide range of subjects that range from abandoned railways to dams; water resorts to amusements parks; forests to cliffs; and costal areas to industrial sites. While in China, according to Dr. Eleanor Consten: ‘The Chinese landscape is a representation of the universe and the spirit that creates and preserves it; both are timeless and boundless ’(Consten). Thus, Shan Shui (mountain and water), symbols of timelessness and the intangible in Chinese culture, have become the perennial theme of Chinese landscape art since the ninth century. There is no wonder why many Chinese contemporary photographers choose Shan Shui as one of the most important themes. The mountains and rivers that appeared in old Chinese poems became Taca Sui’s obsession during his stay in US. Later, he marked all the names of each and planned his first journey in 2010. Thus, broad mountains and rivers, trees and stones became the main subject of his photo series. Meanwhile, Zhang Jin went to the most remote area along the Silk Road, trying to remove traces of time and history by taking photographs of the mountains.
Secondly, one the most prominent features of Zhang Jin and Taca Sui’s practice is their response to the traditional Chinese philosophy and literati spirit, which makes them significantly different to their Western contemporaries. Over the centuries, the tradition principles of Confucianism and Taoism have played a crucial role in the practice of Chinese classic literature and traditional painting. According to James Cahill’s study, he drew attention to a school of Taoist poets and painters, ‘who dwelt upon their emotional responses to the sights and sounds of nature and were inspired by them to the creation of works of art’ (Cahill, 1972 P25). As Michael Sullivan says: ‘Celebrated in ink for millennia, the landscape in Chinese art embodies key philosophical and spiritual ideas unmatched by the Western canon’s descriptive approach to nature’ (Sullivan, 1973 P113). In short, traditional landscape art in China is not devoted to nature, but devoted to artist response to nature. While the representation in Western landscape, offers opportunities for extended contemplation of scenes and scenarios (Wells, 2011).
Zhang Jin was born in a small town of Sichuan province and later graduated from Polytechnic Institute of New York University with a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering. Zhang Jin claimed that his art practice was mainly influenced by the artistic spirit of Chinese Wei-Jin in his exploration of ‘the spirituality of the inner self, to embrace ineffable adventures’ (Zhang, 2012). On the other hand, Taca Sui (b.1984) was born in Tsingtao city of Shandong province, which was the home province of Confucius (551-479 BC). Brought up by a literati family, Taca Sui started to study traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy at a very young age, and he was later trained as a photographer in Rochester Institute of Technology after he quit his studies at CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts). Although the New Topographic movement has heavily influenced his art practice, it is the adaptation of photography to Chinese philosophical and aesthetic concepts.
Finally, in order to visualize creative ideas, Chinese and Western artists apply different methods of artistic expression. When tracing the English word “landscape” back to its Chinese source, it combines two Chinese characters “Jin Guan”, which means “scenery and see”. The different way of seeing landscapes leads to different results for an art practice. For example, linear perspective has become the means of constructing representation central to the aesthetics of Western landscape since Mediaeval times, while according to Dr. Eleanor Consten: ‘perspective would only spoil the scope of a Chinese landscape; a centralized composition would stop the spirit in its voyage’ (Consten). Nevertheless, the middle format, together with the loose contrast between the soft focus and pale grounds in Taca’s photograph, evokes the aesthetics of Chinese Shan Shui painting. Also, in terms of narrative, when we look at photographs from Another Season, viewers can enter and travel through each part of the picture in turn, going from one to the other – we shall be as little bothered by the lack of a uniform viewpoint as we would be.
IV. Market success
The history of Chinese landscape photography can be traced back to the late 19th century. Tung Hing, a Hong Kong photographer once went to Wuyi Mountain and took photographs of mountains and rivers, bridges and trees, temples and monasteries. Described by Claire Roberts, ‘while the views were most probably the result of an expatriate commission, the locations and captioning suggest an appreciation of the landscape from a Chinese cultural perspective (Roberts, 2013 p45). Early Chinese photographers used a contemporary medium and an aesthetic informed by Chinese literary to created authentic photographs and reach its scale in the 1920s and 1930s. However, until recently, landscape as a genre re-emerged in Chinese contemporary photography after many years of modern transition. Urbanization has accelerated the growth of cities in China to become the most influential force altering China’s metropolitan culture. As mentioned before, Yao Lu and Yang Yongliang, among other Chinese contemporary photographers, both use digital photographic technologies to recreate Chinese landscape painting. Gu Zhen observed: ‘create an entirely new visual effect and evoking a rethinking of urbanization and modernity’ (Gu, 2011 p210).
Indeed, the photographic practice of Zhang Jin and Taca Sui is not only a continuation of the traditions of Chinese landscape photography, but it also suits the niche market of the Contemporary Chinese photography industry. To admit that photography is a vital part of Chinese contemporary art practice, which only established its own market in the end of the last century. During the last decade, Chinese conceptual photography has played a vital role in the Chinese contemporary photography market, partly because the demand for international buyers has continued to rise. However, the problem lies with the fact that the highly priced Chinese conceptual photographs have no impact on the market, due to lack of an adequate support system. By the end of 2008, there have been many Chinese conceptual photography artists who have shifted their focus towards painting and installation art.
After 2009, Chinese photography critics, buyers and gallery owners began shifting their focus from conceptual art to authentic photography. In order to promote Chinese photography and improve the domestic market, many photographic galleries in China launched different strategies to encourage new talent with different photographic practice.
Taca Sui, whose stylish black & white photo series first appeared in the 2010 Lianzhou International Photography Festival, soon attracted a lot of attention to photography critics and dealers. As Zhuo Can commented on Odes: ‘the most valuable contribution of Odes in Chinese contemporary photography is——interlingual practices and translation of New Topographic texts into contemporary China’ (Zhai, 2011). Meanwhile, authentic black and white photographic prints are highly appreciated in the Chinese photography market. Instead of making hundreds of digital prints, Taca Sui is a true genius of making platinum and silver gelatin prints. He smartly selected grey in the work Odes to acknowledge Chinese traditions of Shan Shui painting by presenting a timeless image in the fast changing Chinese society. While black & white photography has been the obvious medium for Zhang Jin’s photo series, his photograph of the Silk Road is a fascinating syncretic cultural product, reflecting on the connection between past and present in the remote northwest of China.
Recently, Zhang Jin and Taca Sui’s work can be seen in numerous magazines and book publications as well as individual and group exhibitions in China, Japan and US that give viewers a whole new perspective on contemporary Chinese landscape photography.
If this essay has any future use, it will form part of my Chinese landscape photography study. Landscape, as a genre, has generally not yet been discussed in the history of Chinese photography. Yet Chinese young photographers persist in exploring areas in terms of histories and geographies, focusing on the interaction of humans, the environment and on Chinese aesthetics. Meanwhile, as a photographer, landscape is very much related to my own practice. It brings together my ideas and research on this issue. Above all, I hope to show my reader the current trends in Chinese landscape photography. I must stress that this essay is just an overview. There are many photographers whose body of work have influenced my thinking, but whose work is not specifically referenced – the range of examples of practices is simply too expensive to be encompassed in a short essay.
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