Week Number Four: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Photo © Abby Robinson, Final Banquet, pork dish in foreground and (from left to right) Ivan, Phil, Ryan and Eleanor.
The last week is always a mélange of wonderment (what—the class is over already?!?), achievement (wow, I actually pulled my project together) and sadness (do I really have to leave? I was just getting the hang of it here).
We stalled the winding down a little by having Sean Hanratty—a young American photographer and friend of the program who lives and works in Shanghai—show us the series he’s been shooting. Sean hung out with us a fair amount last year; his enthusiasm and curiosity about the city both inspired and aided us. He was around less this year, as he was off visiting Istanbul and Ireland.
Also on Monday: A quick group crit to check on projects and to help people sort out how best to use their remaining shooting time.
Tuesday: Individual crits for more in depth analyses and to figure out ways in which to carry project ideas further outside the confines of Shanghai. One thing we try to do in these workshop is make sure people leave excited by new ideas worth pursuing further.
Wednesday: Because one of the workshop’s missions is to learn as much as possible about Chinese photography (and to move away from an Amerocentric point of view) we task participants to give a five to 10 minute talk on one to three Chinese photographers whose work they liked/admired/or inspired them. We had anticipated some overlap but curiously enough, there was none and the selections ran a wide and interesting gamut.
Jocelyn selected Houbo, Mao’s personal photographer for 12 years during his time as the Chinese Communist Party head. Ivan discussed PenYue, who manipulates Chinese icons with industrial revolution images in a pop context. Phil chose Chen Man, a hot young fashion photographer, along with Li Wei, with his mirroring and gravity defying images. Cassie’s report highlighted Zhou Hongbin, whose work we saw at OFoto, especially her work dealing with rabbits swimming in water. Christil picked Chin-Chin Wu, who explores identity and did provocative portraits of women’s genitals in Beijing and Paris. Ryan investigated Xiang Liging’s work after having seen some of it when we visited the Zendai Museum and Shanghart Gallery in M50, as well as Chen Wei’s series’ House of Recovery and Painkiller. Leah did a trifecta report, talking about Chan Xin’s series Identity Exchange, which documented the artist changing clothes with people in a variety of professions, Yan Qian’s images of women shot through fogged mirrors in hotel bathrooms, and self-taught Xing Danwen’s project focused on large masses of discarded objects. Leah even added a bonus track, showing us images by Natsumi Hayashi, a young Japanese photographer (and Internet sensation) who takes a daily self-portrait of herself jumping in ways that seem to defy gravity.
Thursday: Final presentations, which also demonstrated quite a range. Ryan took pictures—often in parks—and then removed background information so human interactions formed mysterious tableaux. Phil combined his graphic design skills with his passion for eating to make pictures of food, many formally borrowing ideas from traditional Chinese scroll paintings. Leah, who had done her senior thesis on self-portraits, left her comfort zone behind and photographed people in service industries whose efforts are under appreciated and very often overlooked. Ivan hit the streets, but instead of just shooting people out and about, focused instead on people’s reactions to him as a foreigner. He also worked on a subsidiary series where people were dramatically illuminated by artificial light. Cassie started a project on public spaces, stitching photos together to form irregular shapes. Her plan is to combine this 21st century computer technology with 19th century handcrafted book making. Christil focused on women and the daily tasks they perform, while Jocelyn, who spent hours poking and prowling around the city, produced a strong body of work shot with her iPhone depicting surprising and mysterious Shanghai moments.
Friday was dedicated to final shopping and packing. Then that night we celebrated—and pigged out—at a great banquet at Jardin du Jade, a restaurant known for its Shanghainese cuisine (there are a lot of eateries in town that showcase other Chinese culinary styles). Some continued the festivities in a number of clubs around town. Our only regret was that we were going to miss the July 9th opening of our friend and liaison Zane Mellupe’s solo show—In Memory of the Perfect Wife—at Ifa Gallery. Phil and I went to the gallery for a sneak preview and it looked like the show was going to be great.
Photo © Abby Robinson, Final Farewell.
Saturday: Ryan was the first to depart, getting an early morning plane to New York. Ivan and Christil followed in the afternoon. Cassie headed to Ohio, while Leah went off to spend four days in Tokyo before going home to New Hampshire. Jocelyn decided to spend a week in Xian to see the famous terracotta warriors before returning to D.C. Phil stayed in Shanghai a few more days before going to Shenzhen for a couple of weeks to spend time with family and friends. Eli remained in Shanghai for a couple of extra days too, before winging her way back to NYC and SVA. And me? I left for Paris on July 4th, where I plan to spend time with friends, my visit punctuated by a couple of short hops to London and Brussels. In fact, I’m meeting up with Christophe Demaitre in Belgium to see his show. Christophe was one of the artists we met during our Moganshan tour. What happens in China doesn’t necessarily stay in China. Connections become ongoing.
And so the workshop came to what for all of us was a productive and satisfying end. Now on to planning next year’s workshop…