A couple of years ago, I started a project I dubbed 'Project 365'. Simply put, I attempted to take one photograph of something, anything, each and every day for one year. Even though I'm intensely ambitious, I'm also overwhelmingly lazy, so ultimately, I never quite finished my little photographic endeavor.
But my affair with photography never diminished entirely. So I've bought a new camera; a Nikon D3200. The model is heavier than my university debt, yet it's completely worth it. It's very much re-lit the embers of my old hobby. Scurrying around Shoreditch a few weeks ago, I took my camera for a test run.
I happened to stumble upon the A for Adeo exhibition, held in the 5th Base Gallery a few weeks ago, which features the combined efforts of young expats photographer Edwin Zhang and illustrator Fly Chen. Derived from the etymology of Latin ad (“to, towards”) and eō (“there; so much”) in effect, weaving together the two strands of atavistic and contemporary language forms. With both artists hailing from China and educated in the University of the Arts London, this splashing together of different pools of culture finding its home in Shoreditch was more fitting than Doughlas Booth's suits.
Edwin Zhang's photography captures the dissonance between the restrained sense of minimalism and the photography medium itself, which freezes a fracture in time, with the affinity of art, the freedom of creativity. I absolutely adored his latest works, which capture a diverse selection of primey displays of youth. Opulent gold crowns, hypnotic neons, clean whites, the settings of the models are as varied as Edwin himself.
Seem familiar? Ironically, one of the models feature in Edwin's photographs was the young model Alexander Fakinos, who I had the pleasure of interviewing way back last year. Sorrowfully draped in a disquieted overcoat and turtleneck, the aesthetic Edwin curates ebbs away at the sophistication, conveying an aged, weathered soul, stimulating the mind pensively, it's a powerful image. The styling of the clothes, the withering away of the trousers into trainers, quietly reminds the gazer of the fleeting youth of the young adult. It was good to see a familar face there, I'm happy Alex is doing so well in an industry as cold as the room he stood in.
I managed to ask Edwin a few questions about the collection, and how he feels about the path he's taken as a photographer:
J: For a reader unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your photography?
E: Forceful, simple, interesting and story is my pursuit to photography and my style. My BA's major is graphic design, and before I studied in university I learned drawing for 5 years. All of these experiences have an impact on me a lot when I do photography. For these reasons, I like a simple and strength method. So, I always try to find some new interests from my model, location or styling. With one sentence summary of my photography is magnificently conceived with clear, bright, interesting and profound.
J: You photography style flirts between photojournalism and fashion photography, how would you describe that effect?
E: For me photojournalism and fashion photography are similar because i think the essence of photography is to record. No matter what the object is the model or normal people. I like the representation of fashion photography which is not limited to one type. I also like photojournalism which can act as a record of the truth.
J: When did you first pick up your camera? And did it quickly become a serious vocation for you?
E: I do not remember the exact time I first picked up my camera. I just remember when I was around 14 or 15 years old and I bought a point & shoot camera using my little allowance. Then I shot lots of photos with that camera. It seems a not good camera, and I also did not get any good photos by it. I remember that I have my first own professional camera when i study in the university at the first year. My major is graphic design. This major includes a photograph course. That was my first time knowing how to use a professional camera and how to use the flashing light in the studio.
J: What was the response from your friends and family for choosing to become a photographer and to study at UAL?
E: During the photograph course in the university I fell in love with shooting photos. At that time, I often like to walk on the street and capture the normal people by my camera. I like to watch and record the normal people's life. I also took part in many photography matches and was awarded many prizes at that time. This experience gave me lots of confidence to be a professional photographer in the future. My family also gave me a strong support, so when I graduated from my university. I decided to come to Beijing immediately. I found a job as a photographer assistant in there. This job helps me to know what is the real fashion photography. It also let me know as a photographer, you're horizon is really important thing for you're career. Then I have a idea that I want to open my eyes in aboard. That is why I come to London and study in London college of fashion for MA fashion photography.
J: Have you had any formal photography training?
E: I learned a short fashion photography course in Beijing before, and that course just teaches me a really basic shooting and retouching skill, for example how to use Photoshop and how to use different flashing light in studio or something. Then I was working as a fashion photographer assistant. This job makes me learned lots of thing about fashion photography.
J: Do you have any inspirational photographers, or photographs, that mean something to you?
E: I like many famous photographers's work, such as David lachepelle, Annie Leibovitz, Tim walker, Miles Aldrige, Alex Progers and so on. Their works are full of stories and when u watch their works, u can feel some special things from it. that I also like many photographers on Internet who are not famous photographers but their works have really inspired me. Such as interesting composition, the beautiful tone of photos and the unusual view. In China there's a saying that if three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher.
J: What was your favourite shoot to photograph and why?
E: I think photography is kind of art which is full of regret. I mean, it is not like drawing, and you know the painter can change the element of that drawing any time. For photography when you press the shutter, that picture will be done at the same time. No matter how much you prepare for your shooting, when you finish it. The outcome is not totally same as your imagination in the most of time, and I also will find lots of shortcomings after a new shooting ,So I always feel not very satisfied about works. but it is good for me, and it can make me step forward. so I think My favorite shoot will be in the next time.
J: In your latest collection, featured in the 5th Gallery in Shoreditch, many narratives are conveyed through the different models and settings. From a cold, grey room with a brooding man, to a wild, technicolor club scene. What was the reasons behind these stylistic choices?
E: In my exhibition, there are many different kind of photos. Some of them are record shots, some of them are fashion shots. All of these works are my own understanding of fashion photography. As a foreigner living in London, the young culture of London gives me lots of inspiration. I like to record it by my way. One of my work “youth people” is about the local culture of London, I invent some young people as my model for this project. Such as boxer, black dancer, punk rocker, tattoo guy and so on. They all like London subculture. Till now, I am haven't yet finished this shooting yet. Actually this shooting is a long time project . I mean, I will continue this project till to I leave London. This project makes me learn more about the London culture. Every time I shoot with a model, I always like to talk with them a lot. Sometimes, we will find different countries people have different characters, and when they face the some problems, they have different attitudes and different way to solve it. My background culture is different with location culture.I like the clash of cultures. That is why I will choose these styles.
J: What was your favourite photograph from the collection?
E: The works of this exhibition span almost two years. I came to London almost two years ago, and during this time I have shot lots of works in here. For this exhibition I choose six groups of fashion photos. Every single one records a different level of my understanding about London and fashion photography. So I like all the works on this exhibition.
As bright as a celebrity's star can shine, eventually, they all wither away. This is what Fly Chen's harrow illustrations reminded me of. Everyone young dreams of being famous, everyone wants to be on TV, to get as much as they can from the 15 minutes of fame. Heck, I'd do anything for the ability to sing to escape the mundanity of life.
Fly Chen take the typically glossy images of the high-profile road and contorts them, creating a dented melancholia. Undercutting these Western celebrities with Eastern art Identity is undercut with youthful fluidity, as no one really knows themselves anymore. Identity is arbitrary, people change, people will eventually dispel expectations enforced by society onto them. I like how vivid the colours are that Fly chooses to presents his subjects the way celebrities are transfigured into cartoonish clowns, befuddled with money, is a pretty awesome concept. Is the celebrity world just a joke, and the fact we buy into it the punchline? Art really does make you think.
The exhibition ran from the 30th January to 4th February 2015, I saw the exhibition on its final day. I feel lucky to have had the chance to see these striking images hung up against the tidy white walls of the gallery. The halls' next exhibitions range from artworks inspired by the Ukraine crises to fruity silkscreens. So cool.