Expanded Geographies: this is the overall theme of this year’s Lianzhou Foto Festival, bringing together some thirty Chinese photographers and over a dozen photographers of other nationalities. “Expanded geographies” is a recurring topic in Chinese society, which seems to be as pleased with its own rapid growth as it finds it disturbing. The themes chosen by Duan Yutin, the Director of the Festival, always provide an insight into the Chinese reality, a country with a population of 1.357 billion, caught up for the past thirty years in an acceleration of history. While this acceleration has met with enthusiasm, it also raises a lot of questions. History and geography are the two disciplines called upon, either directly or in a more roundabout way: history, as a glorious and unifying point of reference, geography in order to evoke the beauty of landscapes and the need to preserve them.
Photography, whether documentary, fictional, interpretive, poetic, social, or oneiric, is probably the medium the best suited and the most sensitive to express this mindscape, to show it and make us experience it.
Wei Leng Tay and Zhuang Wubin take us on a journey from one country to the next; Huang Dongli creates a “home away from home”; Ka-Man Tse raises questions of identity affected by displacement, as does Zhang Hai; Zhan Wenxin challenges our interpretation of reality in our concrete or imaginary distress; Li Bigang brings together modernism and tradition; Yang Mu plunges us into science fiction; Li Zhaouhui warns us of the dangers of a transgenic world; Lan Teh is concerned about climate change at the sources of the Yellow River; Chen Xiaofeng locates green plants outside their habitat; Li Weikun explores dumpsters; Liang Houxiang builds an archeology of objects forgotten at a construction site; and Liu Yuan chronicles life in Guangzhou.
In documentary photography, Xiao Quan interprets “our generation” through portraits; Ren Xihai tells the story of everyday life in an old neighborhood slated for demolition; and, last but not least, with his “Green Train,” Qian Haifeng, an electrician who spends his free time riding trains in the north of China and a traveling photographer, offers a feast for the eyes and a lesson in humility to many a professional photographer. Qian Haifeng received the Punctum Photography Award for Chinese photographers, while Guy Tillim is the recipient of the Judging Pannel Special Award for foreign photographers—a prize awarded by the Lianzhou Festival.
Once again, the Festival has proved itself to be an essential venue where you can get a closer look at Chinese photography.
Lianzhou Photo 2015