Expressions of China includes thirty selected works by four young University of Central Florida artists. In this exhibition, Ian Hernand, Blair Remington, Tomas Valladares, and Sharon Weaver illustrate through photography their Spring 2008 journeys through the rural villages of China’s Shandong Province and the larger cities of Jinan, Beijing, and Shanghai. These students traveled to document Chinese folk art traditions for ChinaVine, a larger research project presenting Chinese traditional culture to English-speaking audiences (www.lib-wpms.uoregon.edu/chinavine), but their complex and rich stories evolved in their own contexts and became the work exhibited in Expressions of China. In these revealing photographs, the artists explore a changing and dynamic country that celebrates its past, embraces its future, and is full of resilient, energized, and hopeful people. They observe the fluidity of that change and they capture their ubiquitous encounters with “the other.” They illuminate their experiences through enticing colors, lights, faces, buildings, and streets, and they create depths of understanding within their informative texts. These four travelers see their worlds through the electrified glances, intriguing juxtapositions, and inspiring moments that responded to their inquiring lenses. They communicate through their nuanced talent, intuition, and energy the exhilaration that the places and spaces of China elicited in them. As witnesses to their artistic growth, we also grow. Through the keen, confident eyes of Ian Hernand, Blair Remington, Tomas Valladares, and Sharon Weaver, we are privileged to experience their playful sense of curiosity and their admirable ability to live directly in the remarkable visual moments of Expressions of China.
“I wanted to go for the experience. The experience of tasting gooey steamed buns at dawn in a restaurant with no menu and laundry hanging to dry out the window. The experience of taking photographs of smiling children who were just as excited to see me as I was to see them. The experience of being welcomed into the homes of artists who are keeping centuries old traditions alive. And the experience of feeling an indescribable connection between our cultures afterward.
There we were: Perched on top of a restaurant in Beijing, looking out over a lake, red lanterns glowing. The conversation turned to a discussion on the differences between generations, a topic relevant in China, where most can count their ancestry back as far as ten generations. But this discussion had taken a much more American turn, as Kristin Congdon leaned over the table and asked me what I thought the defining characteristic of my generation is. I was a little taken aback. After all, I’m only twenty, and had never thought of my generation as even being old enough to define ourselves. But what she said struck me: She saw my generation as being more global, more hopeful about the world, and that we do everything we do for the experience of it.
Traveling thousands of miles and capturing thousands of images: The experience of a lifetime.”
“I’ve always been interested in the complexities of human emotion that can be communicated in facial expressions or through someone’s eyes. Photography is a tool that has allowed me to capture moments in time when people reveal a glimpse of their feelings.
In March 2008, I traveled to rural villages in Shandong Province, China, where I was able to photograph young and old in a land that felt both strange and oddly familiar. I’m unable to speak Chinese, so my digital camera provided me with a way to communicate. Showing my subjects their pictures broke the ice, and they responded with smiles and laughter, providing us with an instant connection. I got to explore the villages pretty much on my own, and found myself invited into homes where I was offered tea and small gifts. I was inspired by the children’s depth of interest and the adults’ strength of character.
My photographs reveal universal ideas about curiosity, cautiousness, and the strong desire we all have to connect, and it’s the connections that I made with my subjects that linger with me.”
“A photojournalist’s eternal quest is to capture something beyond a two- or three-dimensional image. Photography is, for photojournalists, simply the language they use to convey the essence of a moment in time. But how can a framed image taken in a split second say something significant?
My photography is influenced by the theory and ideas of French Impressionist filmmakers who aimed to capture photogenie. Photogenie is attained through the properties of the camera: the way the image is framed, the depth of field that is captured, the kind of film stock and lens that are used, and so on. In this way, I believe that the soul of a person or the essence of a thing can be portrayed through a photograph.
I want the images I record on pieces of film to immortalize my memories and capture the essence of the moments I witness. I present these images to viewers hoping they will share in my subjects’ emotions as I encountered them, and feel the tension that exists as the old and new come together in a changing China.”
“Indescribable sights, vibrant sounds, and intense smells stimulate my senses. I surround myself within the everyday life of an ancient culture rich with tradition and folklore. Through the lens, I interpret the mundane into extraordinary. I stop time to take a closer look at quickly passing moments.
My experience as a student film maker and professional photographer have aided me in being patient enough to wait for the perfect moment. I wait for all the right pieces to fall into place. I pause for a moment to take in the emotion my subject reflects upon me and frame it. My photos are a time stamp cementing human emotion. I strive for my work to capture the mood of a rapidly changing and modernizing China for future generations to see and experience.”