Monday, January 26, 2009

Fujian Province

Yong Chun County, Fujian Province

My new obsession is drink tea. I have had drank more tea in the past one week than I have had in the past one year, I am feeling healthy and wake. The tea culture is phenomenal in Fujian province, everywhere I go, I am offered with a cup of finger-burning hot tea. During my trip in Xiamen, I have also learned how to make tea from the locals. There are a lot more steps of tea-making than open a package and dip dip, tea tastes much better without the bag.

While in Fujian Province, I made a special side trip north of Xiamen. After a three-hour bus ride, I arrived in Yong Chun Xian (a.k.a. Spring Forever County). It is a small town of 600,000 people, yes, it is small in China. My darling friend Lao Ying is originally from Yong Chun Xian and she invited me to stay with her for a day. In the morning, we climbed up to one of the highest peaks nearby and visited a monk-less temple, which has been taken care of by an old man. The old man of course had to stop me for a cup of tea - Iron Guanyin - a popular Wulong tea named after a Buddha, very light and a bit tart, best drink with some dried orange, which I have gotten the whole case from Lao Ying’s mother for a gift. Yummy!

The temple on the mountain is fantastic, the magnificent location, absolutely peaceful. Out of respect, I did not take too much photos of inside the temple, but even when I was trying to shoot some images in the dinning hall outside, temple keepers were getting a bit frustrated, they said they must clean up the whole temple before allowing me to photograph inside. They then offered me the best home grow mandarin oranges I have ever had, the local sweetness. Just imagine eating a Buddha blessed orange on the misty mountain balcony with the morning breeze. It was heavenly !
The Dish.

In this trip to Fujian Province, I have made two very special friends. Lao Ying and Tang Nannan, who I have met both during the Pingyao International Photography Festival, I was not able to chat with them much at the time, but in this trip, I had lunch and dinner with them almost everyday. They both had brought me to the most authentic places in Fujian, which I would not ever find it on my own. Lao Ying is a very young photographer who just graduated from Xiamen University, she is working as a freelance photographer and also working on her own projects including some very cute photo collages. Before I leave Xiamen, they brought me to a street front restaurant; we had this must-have The Dish where seafood cooked in a pan of red oil and mysteries. If you two are reading, I really appreciated your kindness.

PS: Sorry for the image quality, all taken with iPhone.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Xiamen

Da Xiong, the Chow Chow

I arrived in Xiamen yesterday and the weather is perfect, it was 24C (75F), big contrast with the cold wet Shanghai. The sun was very bright, I met up with a photographer friend here and she brought me to visit the Xiamen University first. The university here is probably the best located campus ever in China, it is sort of on a higher hill with a white sandy beach as the backyard, how perfect! I have never seen any school with such a good Feng Shui.

In the last 2 days, all my meals are well under $3 and they are all fresh-made and very good. The city has little soup stands and home restaurants within every 2 steps, my favorite so far is the Tofu Flower (Tofu mixed with veggie, meat and unidentified stuffs).

Last night, I was invited to guest at a photographer's party in 32How, a local non-profit organization in Xiamen. I gave an artist talk following with a great discussion. Most photographers in the event are quite young and the work they showed were almost all related to the city of Xiamen. One thing I noticed in this city is everyone seems to be very very relaxed, people walk very casually on the street even in the early morning not-so-rush hour. See, if I am in a city with a beach in every direction, mountains and parks in the middle and noddle soups deserved to stop in every block, I'd walk like that, too.

The highlight of the night was actually in the coffee shop on the ground floor of 32How. The waitress was extremely sweet and friendly, as she hand picked one type of coffee beans for each of us. She came over to our seat and shaked the coffee beans three times in front us and let us stick our noses into the coffee beans and smells the different layers of the scent from the coffee. She absolutely refused to give me sugar, in the tone like "Please drink your coffee without sugar, it is better that way!" Hmm... It really was true, it was much better! One thing I like to say about the Chinese waitress (not waiter) is they don't really give a damn about what you want, they decide for you. It is same in Shanghai, same in Xiamen and even worse in Pingyao; in Pingyao, the waitress makes you feel very very small if you don't order what they ask.

Last but not least, I have to say something about the coolest dog I saw in Xiamen. While I visited artist Tang Nannan's studio, his overly friendly Tibetan Chow Chow named Da Xiaong (Big bear) was the heart melting fuzzball. Tang Nannan is a painter and photographer, his work is the most memorable at the photography talk last night, striking black and white street photography of the people in the neighborhoods he had lived in, they definitely reminded me Lisette Model's work. I will ask more of his work to post later when we bumping our rice wine bottles tonight. Stay tuned.

Auction at iGavel ends on Jan. 21st

Dan T., New York, NY, 2008 © Shen Wei

The Emerging Photographers Auction presented by Daniel Cooney Fine Art on iGavel.com will be ended on Jan. 21st, only 3 days left. I have a photograph Dan T. also included in the auction. There are quite a few very interesting images on the auction as well and all of them are still in the very reasonable price, so please check them out.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Spring Rush.

The crowds at the train stations during The Spring Rush

The Spring Rush (a.k.a. Chunyun) is such a phenomenal event, it has its own Wikipedia page. It happens very year before and after the Chinese New Year which, in Chinese we call it the Spring Festival. The Spring Rush is the time while an overwhelmingly large number of migrates going back to or return from their hometown for the Chinese New Year, this movement costs the air, train and bus transportation system heavily overloaded and crowed in a period of 15 days before the Chinese New Year and 25 days after the Chinese New Year. It was estimated there were about 3 billion people traveled during the last year's Spring Rush.

If you are a native of Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou and a few other major migration cities in China. You probably never have to experience the Spring Rush, unless you work in other province. So, I basically have no idea about the Spring Rush until recent years when it becomes a bigger and bigger event and consistently became the headline news of the period. As I decided to spend my Chinese New Year with my family in Shanghai this year. I was naive enough to think I can also do a little bit of backpack traveling along the Yangtze River to shoot my Chinese Sentiment project. Everyone kind of laughed at me and suggested me perhaps to check out the train station before I pack my stuffs. The answer is always: "NO WAY!"

Except one person who brave enough to figure out the train adventure I have been dreaming about. That is my friend and travel companion Miss BaiBai. Luckily, the air tickets is not as demanded as the train tickets, we still managed to get a air tickets to Chongqing where the Three Gorges Dam is close by. BB is a world traveler, a filmmaker turn photographer, who has traveled to many brutal areas in the world, and worked for many A-list travel magazines. BB suggested we should take a train ride from central China back to Shanghai to experience the Spring Rush. Along with the suggestion, there is a few Gursky inspired images for my visual pleasure (above). First of all, I was scared, there is a lot of "what if", then it seems like such a rare adventure to take in China. So BB has pulled some of her connections to get a train tickets. OMG! I am already stressed out!

In contrast, my trip before the Chinese New Year has planned beautifully. I will visit Xiamen, a exotic southeast coast beach city, with a repetition as China's best city to live. I have already invited to present my work in an art event organized by 32HOW - a local creative organization, and stay in their newly opened 21Howtel. HOW FABULOUS!

I am heading to Shanghai on this Thursday, can't wait to see the city in the Spring spirit.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Brad Pitt by Chuck Close

Above is the cover of the new W magazine. Brad Pitt seriously looks beat in Chuck Close's signature style. You got to give Bradley some credit, because these days stars just don't look like this on the cover of a fashion magazines, most of them are pursuing the wrinkle-less alien look. So this is rusty in the refreshing way.

I am in Texas now, warm and dry.

To have a comparison, here is another one by Martin Schoeller.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Cameron


Today I watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off again. I am especially interested in the American teen movie from the late 80s' and early 90s', because I am curious about what the American teenage was doing when I was in the same age, which is very different. For example, when Farris took a day off in his high school senior year, spent a day dining in a fancy restaurant, watching baseball game, driving a Porsche, making out with a girl, I cannot related to any of them except I was a waiter in a fancy restaurant and been refused to take my father's scooter out for a ride. The real star of the movie for me is not Ferris, although he is awfully sweet, but I am much more related to Cameron, the teen who were fighting for his freedom of self-expression. The moment when he was gazing to the little person in Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, I felt intensively what he is fighting with, it is a visceral moment. Teenage hood certainly is the most fantastic part of our life, no matter where you live.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

This couple in my gym.

© Richard Renaldi

© Sage Sohier

© Martin Schoeller

The fun part of being a creative artist is to have the ability to turn everything interesting to a prudential project, at least in the brain for a moment. For example, like today, I went to my yoga class as usual, a woman in front of me is a VERY muscular individual, which normally you don't see a such in yogi environment. I am sure she can lift me up and spin if we are partnering. I felt her energy radiation throughout the whole class. I could not help staring at her, her back muscle is distracting, although I admire her supersaturated movement .

After class I saw she met up with her boyfriend who, indeed a perfect match to her, a typical bodybuilder, tall, handsome, very tanned and overly tight shirt. I was curious about them as a couple, and I was thinking they can be such a great couple for a photograph, just now I am imagining a picture of them drinking protein shaker together. Oh, wait, I bet someone has done that already. So I went online and did the Google. I once did a stupid thing. I Googled the Google (no, my monitor did not explode !). So, Google came up the list with Google on the top, then you click it in, it goes back to the main Google page I was Googling Google. The Internet is a vicious cycle.

Anyway, the result - I am not the only photographer obsessed on bodybuilders. There are loads of them on the Internet, as many as the parking lots and the gas station. Many modern masters and contemporary photographers have explored this subject. But why? Personally, I think they look unlike us, they are intimidating, I mean healthier. They represent the power and the confidence, they have a kind of authority if you work hard enough you might also get it, but most likely not. Then, they always appears lusty, sexual and textural (admit it, you want to touch!). They look heroic, think about the Hulk, the Superman, the Sistine Chapel. And maybe, the very important, they gave a sort of imagination and fantasy!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Making a Book.



prototype of the portfolio book © Shen Wei

I have been making a book since last year. I have a good amount of work from the Almost Naked series, since the work has been exhibited and published numerous times in the US and China, I thought, why not make something intimate, like a book. Upon a limited budget, partially funded by LMCC and partially self invested, instead of making a thin little mass produced book, I wanted to create something different, something personal and collectible.

The process is rather interesting. I phoned my old boss in Shanghai to ask for some advices. He hired me when I was a 18 year old runaway boy, gave me a design assistant job in his printing tech company. We have discussed what's possible to make something very nice on a small budget, there were a lot of ideas on the table. Eventually I came up the idea of making a book looks like a personal portfolio. So here you see the pictures of the prototype I recently received. The concept is simple, a portfolio box with 25 individual prints in it.

The box design did not come easy either, I have done quite a bit research to find the perfect fabric for the box (yes, fabric covered box, fancy!). I am super happy with the gray I have on the box now, very chic, isn't it? The box is all custom made because of the size, 265mm x 202mm, not a standard size as I demanded. The box is built in with the magnum closure, silver linen paper interior and the black title graphic (why Victorian? Just like it.) on the top. The title graphic is going to be either screen printed (as shown in the picture) or embossed (more $$), it is a very big decision, so I need some time.

Print Proofs © Shen Wei

Of course, the most crucial part is to choose the images, it's easy to pick 25 of my favorite images from Almost Naked which now contains around 100 images, but I want all the images can live together harmonically in the little box. The final choices are all portraits, man, woman, old, young, gay, straight, white, black, Asian, Latino, everyone is included. I just got the yummy proof prints before Christmas. The proofs are all digital printed, that means I have an excuse to buy a tickets to China to do the press check. Last time I did a press check is for a real estate catalog which nothing on it I can afford, but this time after the press check, everything comes to my house, how exciting!

The reason I want to make a portfolio style book is to give the book my sense of personality. I love the process of from touch every material to witness the final packaging. The individual prints allow the viewers to look at all the prints side by side, or lay all of them on the table at once, make them converse with each other, just like an artist would do sometimes.

The best part, it is a very small limited edition, 218 editions only. I am also considering the idea of including an original print in the last 18 editions (#201-#218). They will all be signed and numbered.

As I am typing now in New York, I have heard all my 218 new born boxes are waiting patiently in Shanghai. The printing date will be scheduled in early 2009. So, if you have any suggestion, please let me know, my goal is to make this book as nice as I can. Keep tuned for more news on this book.