Wang Xueya is an ever-maturing photographer. Her creative work has been very fruitful in the past two years. Last year, her solo exhibition I’m Not Myself at Three Shadows Photography Art Center left a deep impression on the audience. At the same time, she has also won a great number of awards in some influential exhibitions and competitions, and her artistic identity is gradually establishing. Last summer, she signed up for the ” Creation + Innovation” photography workshop in Binjiang, attempting to continue the challenge of commissioning art – promotional photography.
In terms of the current situation of photography in China, there is in fact a serious disintegration of various photography disciplines. Artists don’t care about reporting and documenting. Journalists laugh at salon lovers. “Contemporary” has become the new trend. “Workshop” has become the new prison for all kinds of photographers. The barriers among each other are hard to be torn down, which makes it difficult for many photographers who are determined to devote themselves to the art world to follow the right path. In my opinion, no matter how the elites compete for the right to speak and try to establish a new authority, there are only two things that really matter to those who are working with photography: one is about personal expression, and the other is about how to carry out the commissioned project.
In terms of personal expression, it’s important to be true to yourself. To see your true self with your own eyes! All that is needed and relied upon to truly know oneself in photography is self-awareness. The key to enlightenment is self-awareness and self-understanding, not the “awareness” or “understanding” of the other. In other words, returning to one’s own self is the essence of personal expression. Photography for commissioned projects, on the other hand, requires a strong ability to learn and understand, as well as a good command of language tools and comprehensive creativity. Working for personal expression is a test of the strength of the author’s will. This is where the difficulty of personal expression lies. Authors must learn how not to be swayed by external matters and to give up their attachment to the external world. The difficulty of commissioned projects, on the other hand, lies in solving specific problems in social interaction, including learning, understanding, comprehending, and communicating with people, arranging affairs, and using resources. From the aspect of execution, commissioned projects should be much more difficult than personal expression, which is why the former often take the form of paid services. The assignments given to the participants of the ” Creation + Innovation” workshop are, in fact, commissioned projects from a single and clear direction: to promote Binjiang! The assignments given to the participants of the ” Creation + Innovation” workshop are, in fact, commissioned projects from a single and clear direction: to promote Binjiang! For those who are willing to accept the challenge, they can set up a new project and make a shooting plan according to the idea of promoting Binjiang, which is a typical commissioned project, or to say they ” take on a photography job”. This is a difficult mission, and it is certainly much more difficult than personal expression. Of course, some may lack the ability to carry out such a project or do not want to devote more effort to it, so they may take a more “efficient” approach and choose an existing project that is compatible with the theme of the commission from their previous works and turn it into an extended project. Strictly speaking, this is not a commissioned project. Wang Xueya, however, not only took the challenge of the commissioned project and designed a brand-new shooting plan according to the promotional mindset, but also chose a relatively complicated task that required a lot of effort in coordinating resources in order to present a full picture of expatriates and talents who return from abroad. From the moment she chose her topic, it became clear to me that it won’t be an easy path for her.
Challenge 1: Portrait photography has a long history since the birth of photography, how should portrait photography be treated today? How to be both creative and original under the setting of promotional photography?
Challenge 2: How to combine documentary portraits with artificial lighting? How to capture the decisive moment while maintaining control to a certain extent? How to establish an effective relationship between props and scenes? These specific technical problems are the difficulties she must overcome.
Challenge 3: How to shoot a special group of people who do not speak the same language in a short period of time? How to gain the trust of the subject? How to communicate effectively and efficiently? How to strike a balance between efficiency and artistic quality?
Within a short period of three months, Wang Xueya effectively completed the project and presented a satisfying result to both of her two mentors. This is a meaningful project for her. It means that she has the potential to become a professional commissioned project photographer in the future. In my opinion, the maturity of a photographer comes in when he or she is regarded as a respected and trusted commission photographer while still being effective in his or her personal work.
Nowadays, China is emerging at a rapid pace on the international stage while the urbanization in China is speeding up, promotional photography is covering all fields. It will not only become the mainstream of Chinese photography in the future, but more importantly, it is ready to take on various forms for its own development. It is a real challenge for contemporary photographers to ponder on how to break the traditional and fixed mindset and learn from the great achievements of various forms of photography in the past 200 years with a sense of innovation and finally to explore a new path for promotional photography. It is a challenge worth pursuing, and Wang Xueya has already taken a step forward.
Written as preface.
Hangzhou, June 2021