9 Contemporary Chinese Photographers To Watch

Art & Design

September 9, 2018 | BY Carol Wang of The Artling

Contemporary Chinese photography is often associated with the nation's turbulent social and economic changes, as many photographers’ works respond to the urbanisation and transformation of their hometowns, imbued with sentiments of loss and nostalgia.

We take a look at 10 talented Chinese photographers to watch below:

“Untitled”, 2011, cellulose black and white print (Photo: Birdhead)
1

Birdhead

Birdhead is an artist collective started by Song Tao and Ji Weiyu in 2004. Contrary to their surrealist name, Birdhead’s photographs concern urban reality and daily experiences, and have a signature spontaneous snap-shot aesthetic.

They capture their hometown, Shanghai, in fragments of time and space as it continues to grow in what they describe as a “wandering and repeated stare”. The daily snippets manifest their subjective views of the world and the themes they recognise in art—love, hatred, feeling, sorrow, life, ageing, sickness and death (爱恨情仇 生老病死). 

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9 Contemporary Chinese Photographers To Watch
"Mushroom", 2016, archival inkjet print (Photo: Chen Wei)
2

Chen Wei

Theatrical. Conceptual. Bold. These are the words that come to mind when one encounters Chen Wei’s works. Recently featured in the exhibition "Brilliant City" at David Zwirner Hong Kong, his iconic photographs reconstruct memories and locations from childhood, and his daily experiences in Beijing.

Contrary to the spontaneous and dynamic quality of documentary photography, Chen’s work is about the careful handcrafting of objects, assembling sets, and meticulous composition to reconstruct urban scenes of Beijing to offer a glimpse into an alternative reality. 

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“In Some Time No.6”, 2016, archival inkjet print (Photo: Jiang Pengyi)
3

Jiang Pengyi

Jiang Pengyi exhibits mastery over a wide spectrum of photography styles—from his earlier documentary works to recent experimentations with photography as a medium for abstraction.

He comments on the overlooked by-effects of urban regeneration, while exploring analogue photography and the properties of light, resulting in abstract works. In his series “Everything Illuminates”, the depicted objects are stripped of their representational and functional attributes and given a sense of vigour to be rediscovered through the use of fluorescent matter.

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9 Contemporary Chinese Photographers To Watch
“At Home with Mental Illness”—Zhendong Liang, 15 years old, diagnosed with epileptosis, usually stands at the road and watches people pass by. He lives in a small village in Zhaoqing with hundreds of people (Photo: Yuyang Liu)
4

Yuyang Liu

Yuyang Liu is a freelance photographer for Getty Images, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He focuses on ethnic, health, and environmental issues in China, while also taking on assignments such as on sustainable fishery in West Africa. He won the Magnum Foundation Human Rights & Photography Fellowship, Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography and Ian Parry Scholarship, and was selected as PDN’s 30 in 2017.

His photographs tell compelling stories, at times confronting the uncomfortable truth of how society treats the mentally ill, and responding to the government initiative under growing tensions with the Muslim-Uighur population. 

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(Related: 10 Asian Artists On Instagram For Daily Design Inspiration)

“Solastagia” (Photo: Shi Yangkun)
5

Shi Yangkun

Shi Yangkun was born in Zhoukou, Henan, and moved to London where he received an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the London College of Communication. In 2017, he has won the prestigious PDN Emerging Photographer competition.

His "Solastalgia" series, which explores the “form of melancholy evoked by changes that have happened in the used-to-be familiar home environment”, attempts to document the loss of home and memories due to urban regeneration projects. 

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9 Contemporary Chinese Photographers To Watch
"Pagoda of Six Harmonies", 2015, archival pigment print on baryta paper, 53 x 80 cm (Photo: Taca Sui)
6

Taca Sui

Hailing from Qingdao, China, Taca Sui is a fine art photographer who documents the passage of time through his poetic depictions of often neglected cultural artefacts. Having exhibited in both China and USA,Taca engages with Chinese history and literature by drawing inspiration from texts layered with historical and literary significance.

From travelling to and documenting locations associated with The Book of Odes (Shi Jing) to tracing the steps of the Qing dynastry imperial bureaucrat Huang Yi, Taca produces stunning black-and-white works that resemble Chinese ink paintings that evoke a similar otherwordly poetic beauty.

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“Aeronautics in the backyard #1”, c-print, 75 x 75 cm (Photo: Xu Xiaoxiao)
7

Xiaoxiao Xu

Xiaoxiao Xu, a native of Wenzhou in eastern China, moved with her family to the Netherlands when she was a teenager. The constant changes that took place in her hometown during her years away overwhelmed her, and forced her to reconcile with memories of a completely different experience.

Whether depicting daily objects, or men and women in their homes, Xu’s work exhibits a high level of attention to the human experience and their surrounding environments. For Xu, photography is a medium to explore her roots and recreate experiences in a mystical and elusive atmosphere.

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(Related: 10 Beautiful Coffee Table Books For Art Lovers)

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9 Contemporary Chinese Photographers To Watch
“From the New World”, 2014, 400 × 800 cm, giclee print
8

Yang Yongliang

Having studied traditional painting and calligraphy at a young age, Yang Yongliang injects the traditional medium of ink with a new life by creating “digital” landscapes. Though the images resemble Chinese landscape from afar, a closer look reveals layers of urban and natural images, including buildings, cranes, traffic and urban wastelands.

Yang has held exhibitions in esteemed galleries and institutions all over the world, including at The Louvre, Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.

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"Untitled #8”, 2009-2011 (Photo: Zhang Jungang & Li Jie)
9

Zhang Jungang & Li Jie

Active online in the past decade, duo Zhang Jungang & Li Jie see photography as part of their daily routines, bringing their cameras with them wherever they go to capture fleeting moments. Their art is highly subjective and personal, coupled with blurry and ethereal qualities.

According to them, their works are a celebration of “youth and love”, which is manifested in the spontaneous aesthetics, vibrant hues and occasional light leaks resulting from a 135 film camera.The duo have exhibited in notable exhibitions, including Pingyao International Photography Festival (2005), San Francisco Photographic Art Exposition (2006), and Chambers Fine Art (2008).

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This story was originally posted on The Artling.

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