This exhibition presents 150 photographic works by seven photographers from mainland China, who explore the relationship between contemporary photography and visual culture. The seven photographers -- Chen Yuan Zhong, Hua Er, Jia Yu Chuan, Li Nan, Yang Yan Kang, Yu Haibo, and Zhang Xinmin -- earn their livings as either freelance or staff photographers (or, in one case, as a freelance writer). Each has undertaken the creation of a long-term documentation of one or more aspects of Chinese culture that reflects something vital about China now -- whether that is something emerging or something vanishing. Collectively, these photographers have numerous publications, exhibitions, and awards to their credit, but little of their work has appeared outside mainland China.
Six of the seven photographers -- Chen Yuan Zhong, Hua Er, Jia Yu Chuan, Yang Yan Kang, Yu Haibo, and Zhang Xinmin -- are based in Shenzhen. Just across the border from Hong Kong in southern China, Shenzhen was the first of the Special Economic Opportunity Zones established by China in the post-Mao era, as magnets for entrepreneurs and educated people in all fields. Already a world-renowned center for printing and information technology, among other industries, Shenzhen was a fishing and farming community with a population of roughly 20,000 in 1980. Today it is a booming 21st-century metropolis whose population exceeds 13 million, with an average per-capita age of 30. As such, it serves as a microcosm revealing many of the dramatic shifts in contemporary China. The exhibition moves from the rural scene to the metropolitan context, echoing developments in China today.
While some of these photographers focus on aspects of life in their home city, others look at situations outside of Shenzhen. Their themes include rural Catholicism, matrilineal culture in an agrarian setting, the population shift from country to city, prostitution, gender and identity, typologies of urban citizenry, and the emergence of a thriving pop music/club scene as an index of internationalization. They approach their subjects employing methods ranging from classic modernist documentary to more formally experimental styles.
Produced by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis, Minnesota, with production assistance from the Flying Dragon Cultural Enterprises, Ltd, Hong Kong. Curated by A.D. Coleman and Gu Zheng.