chinese phography


Tian Taiquan: Memory of Time series, 2007

Tian Taiquan  was a young boy at the time of the Cultural Revolution and in fact a member of the infamous “Red Guard” himself. It is against this historical backdrop that Tian’s photographic montages are set. For the mostpart they portray tragedy, suffering ,violence, humiliation and death, and it is particularly telling that young female characters are selected to be the protagonists. Whilst there may appear in some images to be a level of sensuality, the naked and exposed bodies are more likely to be messaging  the artists despair at the senselessness of the violence and loss of life. That female rather than male figures are depicted points perhaps to the fact that this was a struggle fought very much by females as well as males, and that tragically, there were significant female losses incurred. The inclusion of only female protagonists may also be referencing the historical and even present day lower status of women in Chinese society.

Tian is from Chongqing which is the home of one of the largest burial grounds for Red Guards and he uses the grounds as the setting for all his works.


Chen Jiagang’s photographs of narrative images reflect the drastic binarism of China’s booming cities and stagnant countryside. His large-scale use of space engages the viewer in the conflict between man and his surroundings, what is forgotten and longed for, the present and the past.

Chen’s work portrays certainty and uncertainty; the confidence of China’s development and the question of its ramifications. Shown by the juxtaposition of things plundered and revered, places forgotten and revisited, Chen captures a disappearing history that seems silent and still. He creates an ambiguous suspense between the background and foreground, the individual and the collective, the subject and the environment. His choice of contrasting and fading color creates a romantic dream-like feeling of nostalgia, memory and a faint history - all fleeting yet perfectly fixed. 

1. Beauty, 2008

2. Wedding in the Street series, 2008

3. Wedding in the Street series, 2008

4. Who are the Miners?