Saturday, February 21, 2009

More about Lu Yuanmin

Here is a text about Lu Yuanmin, who you had a chance to listen to on

Documenting China: Contemporary Photography and Social Change
Bates College Museum of Art, 2004

"Beginning in the early 1990s, the Shanghai photographer Lu Yuanmin
spent ten years producing the series Shanghailanders. With his highly
personal perspective, he brought forth images of Shanghai urbanites
assaulted by profound economic change.

At the center of Lu Yuanmin's photographs is a cohort of Shanghai
residents who maintained their habitual ways of living on the eve of
radical upheavals in Chinese society. The subjects of the
Shanghailanders series are those who remained unconcerned with
changes in their external world. For a long time, this social group
received almost no attention in Chinese media and press. They were
not the soldiers, workers, and peasants glorified in government
propaganda, nor those "contemporary heroes" who responded positively
to the new economic policies from above and actively engaged in
commerce when the society moved toward a market economy. These were
instead the people left behind by their own times. Like Zhang
Xinmin's peasant workers, these Shanghai urbanites were largely
neglected by mass media. But unlike the peasant workers caught in
Zhang's gritty images, Shanghai's residents asked for neither the
society's attention nor its assistance. They were a self-sufficient
lot. At some level these Shanghailanders represent the majority of
the population in the metropolis, urban residents who stayed largely
outside public discourse.

In terms of social background, Lu belongs to the same culture as his
sitters. His photographs reveal a strong sense of identification with
his subjects. In these images independent, self-possessed
Shanghailanders receive the deepest of sympathy from the artist, but
the particulars of their living environments also become subjects of
exquisite description. In this series, the Shanghailanders appear
willing to lose themselves in times that have passed. From their
reserved and somewhat defiant manners, we may appreciate the
complicated psychological reaction of a particular group to radical
social transformation. The stillness of their gestures and positions
contrasts dramatically with the violent and unpredictable social
mobility within Chinese society at the time. Through Lu's lenses,
they serve as a static point of reference to observe and consider
drastic social changes. "

No comments: