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.
早先，中国的一些摄影师们借以境外画廊或独立出版社的帮助出版画册， 比如2009年在东京成立的Zen Foto Books，专门为亚洲摄影师尤其是中国摄影师服务。他们先后为几位中国摄影师出版画册，包括摄影林舒的《鸠》（Toxic）, 张玉明的《古塔》（The Ancient Tower）；来自瑞士的Didier Quarroz 于2011年在苏黎世创办Sandmeier Press, 随后便搬到中国上海来和当地活跃的摄影师合作，出版画册。于此同时， 先后在中国成立的独立出版社，如香蕉鱼Banana Fish，Gooooodies以及假杂志社（Jiazazhi Press），一直以来都在不断地挖掘来自中国的优秀摄影师，帮助他们出版画册。除此之外，一些摄影师选择手工书的方式充分表达自己的创意，朱岚清是一位1991年出生的年轻摄影师，她凭借一套精心编辑的手工书作品：《负向的旅程》（A Journey in Reverse Direction），获得2014年三影堂摄影大奖。
“来自中国的当代摄影画册”展旨在将2009——2014年中国摄影师创作的画册集中带到英国及欧洲观众的眼前。参展的摄影师们来自中国的各个角落，生活在地球上的不同城市，也有着截然不同的学习和工作背景。他们中的一些人在国内的大学毕业， 有过报刊摄影师的经历, 也有从高中毕业就远赴欧美院校学习摄影专业的九零后艺术家。 参展的50本画册大多由独立出版社制作，其中也有摄影师自己通过像Blurb这样的公司，或当地工厂印制；还有相当一部分由摄影师手工制作。这50本画册中的作品几乎涵盖了当代摄影的所有类别，包括肖像、风景、时尚、纪实、概念等。虽然这些摄影书并不都是在中国制作，但摄影作品的主题都始终围绕着中国当代的议题所展开。一直以来，摄影都被当作纪录现实的“证据”（Evidence），而摄影书更将这些证据长久地保留了下来, “始生如孽——来自中国的当代摄影画册”的展览正是想借“证据”（Evidence） ——2015年FORMAT国际摄影节 的主题，将中国当代摄影的这个侧面展现在观众眼前。
在准备这个项目书的过程中，我受到了很多摄影师和出版人的支持，也希望通过这个展览的机会将中国摄影圈里的年轻力量集合起来，做一场国际水准的展览。此外，我还计划印制和展览相配合的展览图册，用于在展览会场推广。此外，在Format Festival 2015 举行之后，“始生如孽——来自中国的当代摄影画册” 还会在2015年期间在中国北京、上海和其他城市进行巡展。