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Photography Faces Challenges at Three Shadows Award Exhibition
   2014-06-16 17:13:27    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Luo Chun

Wang Yaxin's mother-daughter portraits are a graceful and compelling study of heredity and relationships. The photos are part of the 6th Annual Three Shadows Photography Award Exhibition. Photo taken June 12, 2014. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

By William Wang

In this new world where smart phones are omnipresent and Photoshop has transformed our understanding of the visual image, speculations about the death of photography are blurted out daily. 2D images may be more ubiquitous than ever, but the landscape for photographic art is undeniably in a territory which has never been seen before.

For six years now, Three Shadows has celebrated the forward edge of Chinese photography with its annual award exhibition. This year, a panel of five judges chose just 28 photographers (out of 580) to have their works exhibited in the prestigious show. Those chosen were selected for their technique, intellectual process, and ability to perceive trends

Of the images presented, a number do carry some wow-factor, but quite a number of photographers' images come off as trite; rehashing themes that were explored in depth back in the 70s. Photographers actually seeking to follow contemporary trends might lean towards highly produced Jeff Wall style large format productions; but that vein seems conspicuously ignored by the chosen artists.

If anything, the exhibit's most powerful pieces prove that simplicity should never be underestimated. The most evocative images of the collection don't lay claim on technology or innovative ideas. Wang Yaxin's photos of mothers and daughters side by side are a graceful and compelling study of heredity and relationships. Liu Tao's collection "Humor Lost in the Street" captures the idiosyncrasies and synchronicities that frequently reveal themselves to the curious eye.

The selection of photographers chosen does succeed in showcasing a wide spectrum of the images produced in China over the last year. But at times, the push for variety seems forced; Sun Xiaochuan's bland series of images of bed sheets feels like a superfluous meditation on objectivism. In contrast, the architectural angles and symmetry of Lu Jie's series "White Space" also stand out from the rest of the exhibit, yet they offer more room for exploration and discourse.

Austrian photographer Lisette Model once proclaimed, "Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest." It was true in the 50s when Model was snapping away, and is even more so today. The Three Shadows award exhibition highlights the challenges as well as the individuals bravely facing them.

The 6th Annual Three Shadows Photography Award Exhibition continues until June 30, 2014.

Website: http://en.threeshadows.cn/

Entrance: Free

Address: 155 East End Art, Caochangdi Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing

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