Contemporary Photography from China” includes the work of eight emerging artists living and working in China. Each artist has a distinct approach to the medium of photography that reflect altering responses to the changes taking place in China’s economy, society and culture. For most of these artists in the exhibition, this will be their first gallery show in the United States. A percentage of exhibition sales will be donated to earthquake relief assistance through the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles.Contemporary Photography from China” includes the work of eight emerging artists living and working in China. Each artist has a distinct approach to the medium of photography that reflect altering responses to the changes taking place in China’s economy, society and culture. For most of these artists in the exhibition, this will be their first gallery show in the United States. A percentage of exhibition sales will be donated to earthquake relief assistance through the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles.
Photography in China has made many advances since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Over the next 30 years, photography emerged from its initial use as a propaganda tool to evolving into images of ideas about consumerism. Eventually, photography as an art form became more popular in the 1980’s, especially as living standards and personal wealth increased. In the mid-1990s, Chinese photography was linked to an ongoing avant-garde art movement, often referred to by Chinese artists and critics as “experimental photography.” The medium’s versatility and almost instantaneous nature have become synonymous with the celerity of change in China.
This exhibition is guest curated by Wang Rui, a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles, as well as an international photography curator, critic, historian and organizer. He has published a significant amount of articles on both photography history and criticism, and has lectured on the subject of photography at various universities and institutes. Wang Rui also has been the chief executive of the 2006 Pingyao International Forum on Photography and 2008 China (Jinan) Contemporary International Photography Biennial.
For photographer Lei Benben, she is in each of her brightly colored photographs, but we do not see any specific part of her. Her presence in each image is a dark reflection of her body into a pool of water. It is a documentation of a performance of which we are only seeing the mere reflection. Asiance was able to ask Lei Benben some questions, which the exhibition curator, Wang Rui, was kindly able to translate for us.
ASIANCE: How did you become interested in photography?
Lei Benben: I’ve been interested in photography since 2000, when at that time I had seen a photography-related French film, where the character, played by Sufei Ma Suo, was using an amateur camera to capture life scenes and creating phantom or shadow images in such an engaging manner. At that time, I was yearning for that kind of look and aesthetic. It wasn’t until several years later in 2004 when I picked up a camera and officially started taking photographs.
ASIANCE: Can you say something about the Lomo Works series? What inspired this?
Lei Benben: This water shadow series is my first series as a professional photographer using the LOMO camera, which creates images with special characteristics like over-saturated colors, off-kilter and fuzzy exposures, and dark angles, which for me
was the best technique to create silhouettes and shadow images. In these photographs the water creates an inverted image, a discovery of combining the reality with the illusion. These photographs show a certain view of life as well as an ideal condition. It forever meanders between reality and dreams–all are very beautiful to me.
ASIANCE: What restrictions on photography do you have in China? How has it changed? Is it getting better?
Lei Benben: Currently as a photographer living in China, I haven’t received any restrictions on my work as an artist, mainly because my themes have to do with the inner world. As for limitations, I believe we must look past that aspect and believe all can be good and useful.
ASIANCE: What would be the ultimate photography project? Any celebrities?
Lei Benben: The theme of my most recent project is about average people and their relationships. I’m not interested in celebrities.
ASIANCE: Is there anything else you would like to add or say?
Lei Benben: Right now I’ve substituted the LOMO camera for other types of cameras, even using the camera on my cell phone, to create new photographic works. Please feel free to learn more about me and see my work on my website at www.leibenben.com
For information on the gallery www.dnjgallery.net