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        At 3pm on April 17, 2010, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre hosted the opening ceremony for the First Annual Caochangdi PhotoSpring. The initiators of this event, Thinking Hands Executive Director Bérénice Angremy, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre Founders Rong Rong & inri, and Les Rencontres d’Arles Photography Festival Director François Hébel all spoke at the ceremony. Speakers at the opening also included the French Cultural Attaché and representatives from sponsor Hewlett-Packard.

        Following the opening of the PhotoSpring, Three Shadows hosted the long-awaited award ceremony for the 2010 Three Shadows Photography Award.

        The Three Shadows Photography Award invited a five-member international jury to China, consisting of Les Rencontres d’Arles Photography Festival Director François Hébel, Museum of Modern Art Photography Curator Eva Respini, art critic Karen Smith, Japanese art critic Kotaro Iizawa, and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre Founder Rong Rong. Shiseido Cultural Department Head Mr. Tadashi Ichihashi was also in attendance. Zhang Xiao received this year’s Three Shadows Photography Award and the 80,000 RMB cash prize. The Shiseido Prize and a 20,000 RMB cash prize were presented to Wang Huan. Huang Xiaoliang received the Tierney Fellowship and a 5,000 USD cash prize.

        After the award presentation, Rong Rong & inri, Bérénice Angremy, and members of gallery staff led VIPs and interested audience members on a tour of the more than twenty Caochangdi art institutions participating in PhotoSpring.

        As evening fell, flickering candles were placed in the walls of Three Shadows. VIPs returned to Three Shadows for dinner as a charming outdoor slideshow began.

        A series of wonderful opening week events will run through April 22.  

        Chen Ji'nan
        Born in 1986 and is currently studying at the China Academy of Art in the Photography Department.

         

        Feng Li
        Born in 1971 and currently lives and works in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Lianzhou Photography Festival, Guangdong Province
        2007 Guangzhou Photo Biennial, Guangdong Province

         

        He Yue
        Born in Hong Kong in 1988 and is currently attending Hong Kong University.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2008 Epson Color Imaging Contest

         

        Huang Xiaoliang
        Born in 1985 in Hunan Province and currently lives and works in Changsha, Hunan Province.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Opening Exhibition, Longshore Art Space,Qingdao, China
                Young Artists Exhibition, Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province, China.
                Annual Nationwide Innovative Photography Exhibition, EIZO Cup for Chinese Photography
        2008 Harbin Higher Education Photography Exhibition, Harbin, China Shenyang International Photography Festival
                MAX08 Music and Art Expo, REDSTAR Cultural Media Company
        2007 Second Annual Lv Xiao Cartoon Art Exhibition, Star Gallery, 798 Art District, Beijing,China

         

        Li Chunjun
        Born in 1977 in Liaoning Province and currently lives and works in Shengyang, China.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2008 Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province, China

         

        Li Liangxin
        Born in 1979, and currently lives and works in Beijing.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Qiya Art Gallery Exhbition, Guangzhou, China
        2008 Study Small Group Exhbition, Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province, China
        2007 Description Image Installation, Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province, China

         

        Li Yong
        Born in 1975, and currently lives and works in Fushun, Liaoning Province.

         

        Liao Wei
        Born in 1989, and is currently studying at the China Academy of Art.

         

        Liu Jia
        Born in 1981, and currently lives and works in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

         

        Liu Ke
        Born in 1977 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and still lives there.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Fifth Annual Lianzhou International Photo Festival
                Multi-Dimensional, Chengdu Contemporary Photography Exhibition, No. 35 Red Star Road, Chengdu, China
                Multiple Visions, Exhibition of Four Artists, Epson Imaging Gallery, Beijing, China
                Three Shadows Photography Award Exhibition, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China

         

        Mu Ge
        Born in 1979 in Chongqing and currently lives and works in Chengdu, China.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Silence, Multi-Dimensional Exhibition, Chengdu Contemporary Photography Exhibition
                Go Home, HANSE Art Expo, Germany
                Muge's Works, Sixty-First Annual Frankfurt International Book Fair, Germany
                Silence, Moving Picture, Tank Warehouse Arts Center, Chongqing, China
                Go Home, Campfire Young Chinese Photographers Exhibition, NO SPACE Gallery, Ningbo, China
                Silence, Europe and Asia- Dialog of Cultures Photography Exhibition, Photography Development Fund,Yekaterinburg, Russia
                Silence, Solo Exhbition, The Museum of Photography, Yekaterinburg, Russia

                Go Home, GIM-Galerie im Medienhaven, Bremen, Germany
                Silence, Photocinema Exhbition, 2009 Format International Photography Festival, Derby, England

         

        Qi Hong
        Born in 1962, in Lhasa, Tibet and currently lives in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Third Annual Guangzhou International Photography Biennale, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China
                Qi Hong Solo Exhibition, 82 Art Space, Chengdu, China

         

        Song Xiaodi
        Born in 1984 and currently lives and works in Beijing

         

        Tian Lin
        Born in Xinjiang in 1971, and currently lives and works in Urumqi, Xinijiang Autonomous Region.

         

        Wang Huan
        Born in 1989 in Shandong Province and is currently studying at the China Academy of Art in the Photography Department.

         

        Xiao Ribao
        Born in 1972 in Guangdong Province, and currently lives and works in Beijing.

         

        Xue Wei
        Born in 1969 in Taiwan and currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon, USA.

         

        Zeng Han
        Born in 1974 in Guangdong Province, and he currently lives and works in Guangzhou, China and New York City, USA.

         

        Zhang Jie
        Born in 1982 and currently lives and works in Beijing.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2009 Graphic Novel Heart entered into the 798 Biennale, Beijing, China
        2007 Greenhouse Group Exhibition, ARD Television Station Exhibition Hall, Berlin, Germany Angel Group Exhibition, Athens Library Exhibition Hall, Athens, Greece

         

        Zhang Xiao
        Born in Shandong Province in 1981 and currently lives and works in Chongqing, China.
        Selected Exhibitions:
        2010 GIM- Galerie im Medienhaven, Bremen, Germany.
        2009 Lianzhou International Photography Festival, Guangdong Province, China.
                Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province, China.
                FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby, UK.

        陈吉楠

        冯力

        何岳

        黄晓亮

        李春军

        李亮新

        李勇

        廖伟

        刘加

        刘珂

        木格

        齐鸿

        宋小迪

        田林

        王欢

        肖日保

        薛玮

        曾翰

        张洁

        张晓

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        At the Still Point

        Photography’s170 year history has taught us that in any given era there are multiple ways of working and numerous artistic concerns and points of view. At the turn of the twentieth century in the United States, Photo secessionists Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Käsebier endeavored to make romantic images to rival painting while in France Eugène Atget amassed an enormous archive of rich and detailed descriptions of Paris and surrounding areas; in the interwar period in Europe, Man Ray and the Bauhaus photographer László Moholy-Nagy experimented with graphic compositions and experimental darkroom techniques as their American counterparts Edward Weston and Ansel Adams made studied and precise images of natural forms and landscapes; Daido Moriyama’s poetic and searing images of the dissolution of traditional society in post-war Japan are contemporaneous with Irving Penn’s elegant and glamorous studio portraits made for the printed page; and in the 1960s and 1970s Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander prowled the streets in New York City to describe life as it was lived, while Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince began to experiment with the possibilities of the reproducible medium of photography to make works that reflected on the nature of the medium in an image saturated world.  Today is no different.  The twenty promising artists short-listed for the Three Shadows Photography Prize represent the varied landscape of contemporary photography in China, and indeed, the world at large.

        I think today is a very dynamic time for photography.  We find ourselves in the intersection between the past and future – a moment of transition where analog methods are making way for digital techniques.  However, today both modes of working are valid and vital (although surely in a few years this will no longer be the case). The medium is no longer in its infancy and there is a solid muscularity and sophistication in the writing and theory on photography, as well as the pictures themselves.  The history, in all its complexity and breadth, is also relatively short, and photographers don’t have the burden of millennia of tradition on their shoulders.  It is in this moment balanced, between two worlds where photographers, find themselves working today.

        Diverse in their points of view, these twenty short-listed photographers work in a variety of techniques and across a range of themes.   However, among the separate bodies of work, relationships inevitably suggest themselves.  One common thread is that each artist possesses a decisively personal point of view that is articulated in their work.  These artists use the camera to make observations of the real world that comes from a personal engagement with the world and a desire to interact with it.  Many of these observations seem fleeting - momentary encounters with life that pique the excitation of the viewer, such as He Yue’s glimpse of two identical cats sitting in a garden; Zhang Xiao’s lipstick smeared snowman; Feng Li’s fake moon illuminating a dull sky; Mu Ge’s lonely protagonists caught in introspective moments as their worlds crumble around them; and Liu Jia’s image of the cracks in a sidewalk.  These artists’ celebration of transient and poetic moments brings to mind the critic and art historian Susan Sontag's admonition in her seminal 1964 essay Against Interpretation: "We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more."   Indeed, the immediacy of the observations of these artists asks the viewers to “look” with all their senses.

        Some bodies of works gathered here hark back to an era before the ubiquitous slick digital manipulations of images.  Eschewing overtly digital manipulations, these artists favor seemingly low-tech tools and analog experiments, such as Chen Ji’nan’s pinhole photographs of kitschy amusement parks; Qi Hong’s hand-colored photographs of those displaced by the Three Gorges project; Huang Xiaoliang’s pictures of shadow puppets; Liao Wei’s portraits that appear to be printed on fabric; and Wang Huan’s in camera manipulations that create a confusion of the pictorial space.  In a time when digital wizardry has become the norm, these works rely on a subtle hands-on aesthetic.

        These twenty artists belong to a generation of global artists that are aware and connected to a larger photographic history.  Rather than being expected to reflect local or national histories, these artists make work that speak to their subjective and personal worldviews. The fleeting moments captured by their cameras stand still amidst a world passing by quickly and with increasing velocity. The writer T.S Eliot wrote in his Four Quarters, “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, but neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”   It is in these still points where these artists have allowed us to glimpse and understand something of the world around us.

        Eva Respini, Associate Curator of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

         

        For the Future of Chinese Photography
        Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and Photography Historian)

        For me, the possibility to participate as a jury member in last year’s Three Shadows Photography Award was a very rare and happy opportunity. I first came in contact with Chinese photographers around 1998. At that time, modern photography was just emerging in China. Although I felt the tremendous enthusiasm of the young photographers, the quality of the photographs was not very high still. In addition, there were no galleries, art museums, or collectors for them to access. So after more than ten years of hard work, Chinese photography has made surprising progress. The founding of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre has undoubtedly become a symbol of this remarkable development.
        When I first heard that Three Shadows was planning a new photography award and calling for open submissions, I had both great hopes and a trace of unease. However, I participated in the judging and was very satisfied with the results. I marveled at the quality of the photography in the 2009 shortlist, led by the prize-winning work of Adou. No matter how you evaluated the photographs – from concept expressed to technique demonstrated – I saw that these photographers were in no way inferior to contemporary Japanese photographers. Indeed, some even surpassed them. Some of the candidates even had a level on par with photographers found on the international scene.
        The pieces featured on this year’s award shortlist are diverse in style, something that certainly piqued my interest. Until the 1990s, there was only one trend in Chinese photography – contemporary photography converged around a certain style from a given period. For example, if a more documentary style of photography was popular, then works in that style would abound. If performance art that emphasized bodily expression received high praise, then everyone would photograph performance art. However, the works submitted to the Three Shadows Photography Award that year represented a variety of styles – there was no specific tendency. I think this showed that, with the growing maturity of Chinese society and the accumulation of experience in the art world, photographers have started to enjoy a more free and open environment.
        We all look forward to seeing what kind of works will appear this year. The future of Chinese photography hinges on how many young photographers with good potential emerge contemporaneously. For this reason, the Three Shadows Photography Award is of tremendous importance. I hope that the Three Shadows Photography Award develops continuously as a platform for maintaining and nurturing young photographers.

         

        The 2010 Three Shadows Photography Award

        Karen Smith

        The success of an award ought to be best measured by the impact it achieves within the immediate community. Reviewing the work of the twenty finalists selected for the 2010 Three Shadows Photography Award—who represent one tenth of the 200-odd young photographers who submitted their portfolios for consideration—it appears that the impact of last year’s inaugural event was significant. So significant that the various styles and approaches of those participating photographers who were rewarded in 2009 can be seen to have exerted a distinct influence on the work of the photographers who make up this year’s submissions.
        Being privileged to have participated in the 2009 Three Shadows Photography Award and, by virtue of being based in Beijing, having been on hand to see the majority of exhibitions held at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre between then and now, it is further clear that the impact has been two-fold. The quality of the recent exhibitions has raised the qualitative bar by a clear margin: simply put, the exhibitions have gone from strength to strength. The type and nature of photographic work on display has, meanwhile, on some unconscious and even conscious level established a series of benchmarks that are being read by young, emerging photographers as requisite approaches and formats; essential in their work if they are to be considered serious, contemporary photographers. It is important to remember that the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre is the only high-profile art space in Beijing entirely devoted to photographic arts and of a non-commercial bent, incorporating as it does residency programmes and educational events. For this reason, and where photography is still one of the youngest practices in contemporary Chinese art, those photography works which are displayed at the Centre are subject to particular scrutiny and, as a result, has appointed them a determining role in the development of photography thereafter. Or so it would appear.
         Twenty finalists, then this year, and a range of works that is at once diverse and similar. Some are brilliant, some mediocre, and with the finest of lines dividing the majority of them. The divide between those who I believe will emerge as winners, whose work contains a seam of brilliance, and those who will not is, in my (subjective) opinion, as great as it is unequivocal. And yet, the values that distinguish the differences are less easy to articulate. Ultimately, though, it is the quality of individual, personal expression and endeavour that lends great power to the works of those photographers who possess the ability to unleash it.
        What struck me immediately about the twenty individual photographers’ portfolios was the extraordinary mix of influences pervading the styles and the content of the work: how the strongest bodies of work wield influences of all kinds with a deft touch and a brilliance of observation, of sensitivity to subject as well as the physical properties of the medium, whilst the efforts of those less able to manage the influences which clearly inspired them to take photographs are overwhelmed by their appropriations, their own voice stifled almost entirely. Here, part of that first impression contains the names of other photographers and artists who sprang to mind when confronted with several of the finalists’ bodies of work; in particular, the names of Chinese artists and photographers from the younger generations and who have but recently achieved a degree of recognition. I found that aspect interesting.
        Influences are never bad, but they must be controlled. In China, the idea that ‘imitation is the greatest form of flattery’ is prevalent and not a cause for undue criticism. The same is, after all, true of postmodernism which made a virtue of appropriation. However, problems occur when the success of another artist or photographer, in whatever form that takes, is adopted as a road map by those who come after. Of course that hardly needs saying and should not be misconstrued here as a criticism of more than a tiny minority of the finalists under discussion here. It is, however, in evidence.
        What interests me more about this group of photographers is how closely their photographic language has begun to dovetail with visions of the same concerns as expressed in oil paint or even in installations in China today. This is particularly marked amongst the young generation of artists in general who are all single children—and increasingly, who are children of single-child parents, and thus without any extended family at all. This state of being a ‘single’ child is proving a powerful common thread in many bodies of work; revealed in moods of isolation, and in the prevailing sense of being an outsider, distinct from others in terms of a physical body and mental state, both of which are coolly—too coolly at times—detached from the physical and emotional world around them. These atmospheric states are compounded by the nature of contemporary ‘play’; the amount of time that people spend essentially alone in the company of a computer and a social networking system: a world that is virtual rather than external, internal as opposed to outgoing, but it is also encouraged by the brooding, almost nihilistic streak that underscores contemporary culture, with its apocalyptic visions of the future, the impact of global warming, terrorism, Big Brother, genetic engineering in terms human, animal and agricultural. All have found their way in some form or another into the work of this group of photographers.
        The emblems, symbols, and motifs that combine to a language in which these qualities are expressed by many of the photographers selected here are extremely subtle. In terms of their approach to expression, one can say they were nurtured on a post-Nan Goldin generation of American and European methodologies; those of Wolfgang Tilmans, Andreas Gursky, and Richard Billingham, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Thomas Ruff, as well as iconic figures such as Daido Moriyama, Cindy Sherman, many of whose practices are far from subtle. Nonetheless, the moods and the breadth of content that has been opened up by their photographic interventions have inspired a rather singular interpretation amongst young Chinese photographers of what a photograph can, or ought, to convey. Again, that seems to centre on the more casual, detached, nihilistic even aspects of the external world they chose to bring into frame.
        Following the first significant blooming of photography in China in the late 1990s, the field waned somewhat in the early years of the new millennium, as market forces shook existing values across the art world. In real terms, photography was largely unaffected by the market (when that market was good or bad). Instead, it was the maturing of the field in general that altered the status of photography in China. Too many early experiments with the medium were about exploring a means of expression rather than engaging with photography per se. Few pioneers cared about the affects that could be achieved by using the variables of time and distance that the camera lens is designed to accommodate. Today, that has changed (…and yet not, for today digital photography has altered the once-sacred characteristics of photography too). As evidenced by the overall calibre of applicants for the Three Shadows Photography Award, the photograph is becoming ever more sophisticated in form. As the quality of expression catches up—for by this time next year no doubt the quality will have risen significantly again courtesy of this year’s new benchmarks—we can look forward to new work from the winners of the 2010 Three Shadows Photography Award, as well from other individuals who they are certain to inspire.