From Saturday 05 December 2006 to Saturday 20 December 2006
Lianzhou City - Guangdong Province, China
FIVE Shenzhen photographers — Jia Yuchuan, Wang Fan, Yu Haibo, Xiao Quan, and Yang Junpo — were featured at the 2006 Lianzhou International Photography Festival (LIPF), which concluded yesterday. All five took part in the extensive group show “Distance,” whose oversize digital prints filled the ground floor of the Culture Center in Lianzhou, a small town near Shenzhen in Guangdong Province.
At the exhibition, curated by Zhang Qing, Wang Fan offered “Bosses,” a suite of posed formal color portraits. The other four all chose to pair works from two different series. Jia’s contribution juxtaposed studies of mannequins in a factory with images of homeless children in a temporary shelter. Yu combined a selection from his prize-winning study of the “China Oil-Painting Village” with documentation of “old” Shenzhen from 1989 to 1994. Xiao presented extracts from “Women” and “Time.” And Yang used urban bus commuters as a counterpoint to coal miners.
The selections this year at the LIPF placed heavy emphasis on documentary and photojournalistic projects from China and elsewhere. The works in this vein on view included images from the “Cultural Revolution” by Weng Naiqiang and contemporary group portraits in the classic tradition by Li Nan.
However, more experimental presentations of “personal” documentary, such as Olivier Pin-fat’s hellish, diaristic visions of Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka; Philip Blenkinsop’s painful images of Thailand and Nepal; and Steven Benson’s “Red, White, and Blue in Black & White,” a critique of the U.S. media, balanced those out.
Meanwhile, projects in other forms such as Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s “Saga,” a series of self-portraits; a selection from Maleonn’s “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” a set of staged images; and Miao Xiaochun’s digital reworking of Michelangelo reflected the diversity of contemporary photographic practice both inside and outside China. (Unlike some other festivals, the LIPF so far has deemphasized fashion, commercial, and other applied forms of the medium.)
This year’s LIPF Awards Committee selected three Chinese photographers, one Chinese curator, a Chinese architect, and two foreign photographers for recognition at a public ceremony on Dec. 10.
Among the Chinese photographers, Meng Minsheng won the first prize. Mo Yi took the second prize for his installation “The Scenery I Inhabit,” a roomful of intriguing sets of typological images comparing such everyday features of the urban Chinese environment as quilts being aired outdoors, apartment-building entrances, and protective terrace grilleworks. Wang Xinwei received the Young Photographer of the Year prize. Guo Xiaoyan was named Curator of the Year for the large group exhibition “Liminal.” Chen Xudong was presented with a Special Contribution Award for his architectural design for the interior of the Granary.
Bangkok-based photojournalist Philip Blenkinsop of Australia received a Special Contribution Award for the results of a long-term residency in Lianzhou, which included his own intense, highly emotional installation in a candy factory and the output from a student workshop he taught during his time in the city. A Special Jury Award went to the Finnish-American photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen for “Saga,” a 35-year retrospective of his unusual self-portraits.
LIPF 2006 highlights included the debut of a new bimonthly magazine, Photography, published in Shenzhen in both Chinese and English; evening slide projections in the Culture Square; and several public lectures on aspects of contemporary photography.
Directed by Duan Yuting, the LIPF had its premiere in November 2005. The second LIPF continued the theme established last year, “Between the Observer and the Observed.” Under that broad rubric, it brought together work by a mix of Chinese photographers and their counterparts from Western Europe (especially France), Britain, Russia, Finland, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere: 163 participants altogether, 117 Chinese and 46 from overseas. This resulted in a rich stew of imagery — 79 exhibitions with more than 3,200 pictures.
Using a model that originated in the west, the LIPF wisely has based itself in a city that seems ideally suited for such a project. Unlike Houston, Texas, home of Fotofest International, the U.S. counterpart to this southern Chinese event and one of its inspirations, Lianzhou is a relatively small, human-scale metropolis. The four sites chosen for the LIPF’s exhibitions — the city’s Cultural Center plus three unused former industrial spaces (a shoe factory, a granary, and a candy factory) — all lie within easy walking distance of each other.
As a destination city for cultural tourism, Lianzhou also stands somewhere between a completely modern megalopolis like Shenzhen and the smaller towns and rural areas of China. So, for those visiting photographers from abroad who wanted to use this opportunity to photograph daily life in China, the city and its surrounding areas offered additional attractions.
The LIPF will publish a full catalogue of the 2006 edition in March of 2007, providing a permanent record of the event.
For those who were unable to attend the festival, a book version of “Distance” has just been published by the Shenzhen-based Haitian Publishing Co. at 280 yuan (US$35.80).
A. D. Coleman
© Nadav Kander