Rong Rong on Chinese photography

Based on his experience of the submissions for the annual Three Shadows Photography Award, Rong Rong makes the following observations in an interview with Dan Edwards for RealTime Arts:

One thing I noticed is that everyone wanted to express their private selves. Unlike older photographic trends that were focussed on society or big topics, younger artists are focussed on their inner world.

This is certainly a strong trend in art-making here in China, something which I’ve been aware of ever since I arrived here, but it’s interesting to hear this from someone who has such a perspective on the recent history of Chinese photography.

Rong Rong (2009). Interviewed by Edwards, Dan. the nurturing of chinese photography. RealTime, issue #92 (Aug-Sept). [Online]. Available from [Accessed 6 June 2010]. Reproduced with permission.

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Rong Rong on Chinese photography by escdotdot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

2 thoughts on “Rong Rong on Chinese photography

  1. I don't buy it. Seems that the now-ensconced generation of artists is retroactively enforcing the social engagement of their work, while younger artists are rarely given due credit for subtle social or political strategies. This should apply most appropriately to photography: Bai Xiaoci and John Choy in the latter category, and perhaps Ai Weiwei and even Rong Rong himself in the former. Their snapshots have accumulated "historical" value in the past two decades, but initially they were just that.

    Likewise, I noticed in a recent essay on Li Shurui that Bao Dong wrote something to the effect of "Chinese artists have never been interested in minimalism, pop art, or op art because of their lack of social significance.“ Obviously this completely ignores the ideological formations that produce minimal and retinal art, but more so it also implies that Chinese artists are somehow uniquely and heroically interested in making "socially engaged" work, and that just seems absurd. Same kind of conceit at work here?

    • To be fair, in the interview I don't think he makes any kind of value-judgement either way, it's just a comment on what he's seen from the entries to the competition. Taking his quote out of context, and adding my commentary was perhaps unhelpful.

      But I take your point(s). Hindsight is a great thing, and history is written by the winners, as they say.

      And you're right to suggest there is some kind of conceit here. There always is. The older generations are now in a position to take advantage of their success/longevity to allow us to reappraise their previous work, indeed their continued presence forces us to do so (if only to avoid being bored to death by the existing definitions).

      This has got me thinking about the CPU artist Zu Jing, who's work I once tried to reduce to "young Chinese artist obsessing on her legs – therefore unable or unwilling to deal with larger issues – wow, it's like her whole generation". That says a lot about my ignorance of Chinese society and inability to see beyond the surface of her work or place it in a context – reductive nonsense. I did her a disservice with that line. I wonder if there is any way to think of narcissism as somehow socially engaged?

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