From Saturday 05 December 2006 to Saturday 20 December 2006
Lianzhou City - Guangdong Province, China
Of particular note: the work of Wu Qi, a relatively unknown artist whose work, mounted in mock guilt frames, should have been awful, but even such ghastly display could not detract from the mesmerising beauty of the images inside. Lyrical and haunting, Wu Qi's nocturnal vision explores a very different China to that of the mass reportage littering LIPF. Vaporous figures seem to be swallowed by shadowy surrounds, and all around darkness dominates. Moody colours lend an alien air to his work whose eerie, unforgettable vision points to a sinister China, one where things go bump in the night. The artist's elegant compositions and delicate austerity demonstrate his awareness of China's past pictorial tradition, while mastery of effect and skilful staging show Wu Qi to be looking firmly toward the future.
Darkness proved effective for exploration of this year's theme, with many photographers exploiting night's potential to reveal things otherwise hidden from view. Taking the red light of the 'hair salons' as the subject for his shots, Chang He reveals the sinister business of the skin trade in China's lowest form of brothel. Concealed in the underbrush surrounding Shanghai's high rises, these unlicensed bordellos are death traps for many women. Always shot from across the street, Chang He's clandestine world glows eerily from the shadows, the intense, saturated red that fills each frame a bloody reminder of the brutality hidden behind each door.
The entrance way is a motif that features in the work of another Chinese artist causing a stir at this year's LIPF. 'Families and Households: the Landscape of my Habitation' features a series of straight photographs from Mo Yi, an artist who has chosen to document the subtle nuances of window grills and doorways so common to a small Chinese town. Beautifully shot, the protective grills point to the growing threat of invasion from looters and thieves. Ornate design and distinctive decoration demonstrate individualism and personal peculiarities that are as revelatory as any portrait of the residents.
Made possible by the Municipal Government of Lianzhou, the festival illustrates the power of economic and cultural amalgamation to raise the reputation of a town both in and outside of China. No expense has been spared in staging LIPF 06 and it is clear the Municipal Government hope the influence of the festival will manifest in many aspects of economy and society. There is still a long way to go, but by staging such an ambitious festival in such a small and underdeveloped town, the Municipal Government of Lianzhou are well on the way to putting their town on the map. And not only that, they will ensure it is marked as an important and respected cultural destination for photography devotees the world over.
© Nadav Kander