After staying for almost four years in Walla Walla, a rather typical American town, I thought I couldn’t be more familiar with the streets and landscape here: clean and organized, but also repetitive and unexciting. Domestic Nightscape is an attempt of me to view this place again with my camera. Earlier, photography could be my reason or motivation of viewing, or the method by which I share my vision. However, in this project, photography has become my only way of seeing—my eyes are not capable of long-exposure on a single frame to achieve more information, but camera can capture and magnify the contrast among different light sources’ luminosity and the interweaving of colors.
In daylight those quiet blocks and middle-class tract houses could be dreary and mind numbing, but they are now surrealistically rendered. Their original materiality starts to become abstract till the moment when it’s perfectly balanced—as architectures, when their exterior structures and lines are more explicit, especially when some elements are highlighted and penetrated by indoor artificial lights, they are also closer to pure geometric shapes.At meantime, I hope viewers will skip the photographer and read images directly, and only in this way could viewers understand the elements in the image based on their own personal experience (for example, would the indoor light cause the sense of security or alienation? ). Therefore, although I can never peel my subjective vision off when I look through the viewfinder, I still attempt to hide these purposed visual choices by presenting a relatively calm composition and allowing a space to breath between the viewers and the images (although this behavior might actually be the nature of subjectivity).
I hope these images with realistic details and surrealistic renderings will not only be visually attractive to audiences who have never personally experienced it, but also push them further and let them approach curiously to the meaning and emotions of lights, as the strongest visual charge of these houses, the evidence of the existence of human in the images, and the essence of photography.
‘I like amusing atmosphere, not just the inner city but also people’s emotions.’ said by Cao Di for his one and only publication: Inner City.
As Walter Benjamin described, Flâneur– a figure of modern urban spectator–is an alienation of capitalistic city. He is no longer a human being but an invisible role hidden in crowd. The same as Cao’s situation, his works have never been shown in any exhibitions or galleries. It becomes a really personal observation to the city and life he lives in.
Cao’s pictures are like his collection. The targets in his pictures including passerby, advertisement leaflets, slogans on the wall etc, they are very normal images that we can see everyday. Cao said he find them very interesting so he took pictures of them. ‘I felt I occupied them, just like collecting stuff. They became mine when I press the shutter.’
As an amateur photographer, Cao described taking pictures as a way of seeking the answers. ‘ For example, I don’t know why I live so I shoot. After taking, I still have no idea but at least I got an excuse. Photography is my excuse for living.’
In his book Inner City, you can see a lot of ‘non-sense’ pictures. They don’t have a deep meaning or hint hide behind them. They are the most honest depiction of the city, almost bored the audiences because they are the view we see everyday through our eyes. But at the same time, the photographer does manage to add a fantasy in. Like the red shoes on a middle-aged woman’s feet, a sky-liked billboard behind a sitting man, a cartoon bag carried by an old man, they are quite amusing and even funky if we take a serious look on them. The reason why we ignore them is numb. We have seen too much in this city so we lost out sensitivity, and thanks for photographer like Cao Di, bring back his Flâneur’s observation for us.