As art director of Lianzhou International Photography Festival (LIPF), people often ask me what my standards are.
I explain that their question stems from a misunderstanding of the function of an art director. The art director isn't a judge with a book of laws-even less a quality control inspector-and so he or she has no list of clear standards to go by.
That answer gets me out of a prickly situation, but I know that I've avoided the essence of the question. The reporters and general public don't expect me to list out a series of rigorous standards. What they want to know, what they think they need to know, is as an art director, what are my fundamental ideas and beliefs about photography.
The question haunts me. How would I personally define photography? It is a daily necessity, something we use everyday. It is a powerful source of discourse and a magnificent wealth of knowledge that is constantly producing new thoughts, ideas and theories. It is a duty and a quest. But now, one after the other, members of the public ask me: "What brought you to choose these photos? What is the main reason that justifies your choices?
Now I am ready to attempt to answer that question.
In the span of our lifetimes, we have witnessed frequent and sudden changes in the concept of the image, the definition of photography and significance of photography in our lives. Now the many convictions we elaborated and upheld in the past are coming under fire. However, faced with the question, I would rather return to the earlier days of photography, to times when the changes where only beginning to appear on the horizon, and approach and rediscover photography in many different ways.
Human consciousness and world view might have been conscribed within a strict set of rules at the time and the voice of complacency of truth might remind us that things are so and that we have no power to choose or argue, but the light of photography made us see everything in a different light. Humanity is far richer and more complex what we are aware of. Photography reveals the texture of experience, exposes paradoxes, and witnesses how humanity sweeps away illusions, rules, categories and theories to discover and make real one's own truth.
In this sense, photography must endure pride and prejudice. Faced with doubt of its significance, photography has preserved its eloquence, vivid lifelikeness, honesty and freedom.
Because of this, I believe that an event like LIPF can be approved of or called into question; it can be analyzed, judged or theorized upon. But validation, discredit, analysis and judgment do not regulate and tame photography and suck the juice out of it; it is quite the opposite: they vigilantly uphold the spirit of photography.
In the same way, LIPF sees it a risk worth taking not to seek impartiality. LIPF is powerful proof of human imagination. It unleashes the hidden potential of photography, making consciousness and what lies beyond words clear for the eye to see.
Lianzhou Iinternational Photography Festival wants to send out a clear message: as long as your camera hasn't turned its back on reality, your works have stemmed from your personal experience and emotions, and you uphold the spirit of photography, we will be there to look at and admire your work, promote it and lend a helping hand.
Dec 12, 2008 By Duan Yuting