Sunday, 30 September 2012


From 1961 to 1964, Barbey spent much time in Italy trying to capture the spirit of the nation through his photography. Barbey's subjects have the archetypical profiles that are instantly recognizable from the popular Italian films of Pasolini, Visconti, and Fellini - the modern commedia dell'arte of the ragazzi, nuns, aristocracy, carabinieri, priests, beggars, prostitutes, and mafiosi. 

Capturing the spirit of a nation is an audacious target.  The album “The Italian” has 95 images.  I don’t like documentary photography in general, but it is still eye catching to me.  The images are all about Italian people.  They are the environmental portraiture.  Bruno took these photos a couple of years after Frank’s The American.  It is very different from Frank’s style.  I knew of this album a more than 10 years ago when I started to look around different kind of photography.  The title inspired me.  A camera to capture the spirit of a nation...

Saturday, 29 September 2012


I am always fascinated by the sky and clouds.  I spend weeks in the sky every year and each time I look out of the cabin window I can look for a long time purifying my mind, contemplating something or nothing, being fascinated by the sublime, getting the visual pleasure of the always different colour and scenes...  Like on the ground there is a horizon, in the sky there is another ‘horizon‘ the border line between the lower sky and the universe sky - I don’t know how I could express this in English better.  The manmade language seems not have many words or expressions on the upper sky probably because we have been living on the ground and we are sent to the sky by the technology only in the last 150 years.  How is related to China?  I fly around China in the sky, the vast subliminal scene reminds me the grand philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi,  the infinity in the far away engages me with many thoughts from Chinese philosophy, the different scenes in the sky evokes me thought on the thousands years of history of this country, the ebb and flow of this nation, the colorful and prosperous period and the dark and miserable ages.  The sky gives me tranquility as opposed to the noisy terrestrial, the sky gives me eternity as opposed to the daily ephemeral in the ground life. Every day we work and live to deal with all sorts of situations, we try to develop and live better our life and society, but the sky is always the sky it is there billions of years.

Friday, 28 September 2012


The speed of development does not merely transform the world.  It becomes the world.  China’s economy developed fast in the last two decades.  The speed changed people’s value, country’s culture, and nation’s landscape, etc.  Even though I hate to be un-original, as too many people jump on a bus or car and make projects out of the journey, I found I express my version of understanding well with my way of photography in a fast running car around China.  The car was driven around cities, suburbans, rural areas, at day time and at night.  The fast car, the fast growing economy, fast growing country, and beyond this.  I recorded the physical image and with the blurry traces of the light, it not only serves the literal mirroring of the speed but also questions the speed, the impact, and the phenomenology of current China situation.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


I don’t know how many times each Chinese has to sit in front of a red cloth to take a portrait photo for how many official papers.  I have no idea when this red background kicked in as in other countries normally the background colour is not red.  Chinese likes red and therefore red is used extensively hence becomes a traditional colour.  As institutional or official images take this red colour from the tradition, red becomes a signifier for these institutional governance or rules.  The government must have billions of passport photos like this and they are all stored and archived.  China has a big population and the recent economic upcoming resulted from this abundance of labour.  Made in China becomes a phenomenon.  Lots of comments and perceptions on this phenomenon.  Lots of them are political.  Some of them are negative on this phenomenon with the conspiracy theory against China as a threat.  Some of them are neutral.  Some of them are with humane concern on the living standard of these labours.  People in the west use products made in China every day.  Do they care what is behind this phenomenon?  Do they care what happens in China and what these workers are doing and living?  From inside China, the government, institution, company and factory have the Chinese way of controlling and managing people.  This is the heritage from the communist era, and of course from the two thousands of years of feudal system, and from the ancient Chinese philosophy too.  I put people’s portrait with red cloth behind to signify ‘something’ and I turn the sitter around to conceal the face to raise or arouse questions.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


The summer seems end today.  The new term starts with “Show and Tell”.  Everyone started to discuss something, anything, an object, an image, to start the journey of the Major Project.  It is always fascinating to hear what other peers ideas.  Sarah Doerfel’s idea attracted me the most this time.  She plans to use his stock images taken from her daily life about London urban especially the buildings and road.  She combines the form cohesion from each image and montage an endless work.  The idea is that she is fascinated by the ever-flowing London life, the vibrancy and dynamics of London, by making such an endless montage of London, she poses the lots of ideas and questions.  Her idea reminds me of John Stezaker.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Three years of training forms my habit of a very methodical way of doing projects.  Idea listing, mind mapping, diamond refraction filtration, test shoot, evaluate and conceptualise, visual research, shoot, print, edit, finalise…  I followed this path and quite like it to be honest.  However this time, my instinct tells me that I would like to try an instuitive way.  I would like to follow my feel rather than my logic mind.

I have a few ideas already for this Zeitgeist project.  Actually I have already been thinking of this for years.  Now I will work this way.  I start the project first and then conceptualise later.

I would like to make a trilogy or a triptych series, a grand epic piece of China Zeitgeist project.  The west likes the number 3.  I don’t know which number China likes in literature, music and art.  Probably Chinese does not bother with numbers.  Western music has three parts but Chinese one is as simple as one.  I found this quite interesting.

Saturday, 1 September 2012


Photo Credit:  Sunil Shah

Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age." Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with the current era.  The term is a loanword from German: Zeit (cognate with "tide") meaning "time" and Geist (cognate with "ghost") meaning "spirit".

I have been thinking about the zeitgeist of contemporary China.  The first thing coming up to my mind is the speed.  The speed of development in economy does not merely transforms current China.  It becomes China.  The general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction are all undergoing this transit.  I would like to consider and engage with this subject to explore and make my major projects in the next couple of months.