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Li Zhensheng
Li Zhensheng

Li Zhensheng

Country: China
Birth: 1940

Li Zhensheng (born September 22, 1940) is a Chinese photojournalist who captured some of the most telling images from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, better known as the Chinese Cultural Revolution. His employment at the Heilongjiang Daily, which followed the party line, and his decision to wear a red arm band indicating an alliance with Chairman Mao Zedong, allowed him access to scenes otherwise only described in written and verbal accounts. His recent publication of the book, Red-Color News Soldier exhibits both the revolutionary ideals and, more notably, many of the atrocities that occurred during the Cultural Revolution. The Heilongjiang Daily newspaper had a strict policy in accordance with a government dictate that only "positive" images could be published, which consisted mostly of smiling revolutionaries offering praise for Chairman Mao. The "negative" images, which depicted the atrocities of the time, were hidden beneath a floorboard in his house before he brought them to light at a photo exhibit in 1988.

Early life

Li Zhensheng was born to a poor family in Dalian, which is located in the northeastern province of Liaoning, China. At the time of his birth this was Kwantung Leased Territory, where Japan maintained the puppet regime, Manchukuo. His mother died when he was three, and his older brother, who was a member of the People's Liberation Army was killed during the Chinese Civil War. Zhensheng helped his father, who was a cook on a steamship and later as a farmer, until Zhensheng was 10-years-old. Zhensheng quickly rose to the top of his class despite starting school late. He later earned a spot at the Changchun Film School, where he acquired much of his photographic knowledge. In 1963, he briefly achieved a job at the Heilongjiang Daily, however the Socialist Education Movement soon intervened and he ended up back in the countryside for nearly two years, living with peasants and studying the works of Chairman Mao.

Cultural Revolution

Zhensheng returned to Harbin just months before the outbreak of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the spring of 1966. A lack of photographic film, marauding Red Guards, and a political dictate against photographing the negative aspects of the revolution restricted what he was able to portray. He soon realized that only people wearing the red-colored arm band of the Red Guards could photograph without harassment. To achieve this, he founded his own small rebel group at the newspaper. Zhensheng then captured some of the most horrific acts of the Cultural Revolution. His collection includes photos depicting dehumanizing tactics used by the Red Guards to humiliate or degrade alleged counterrevolutionaries.

Some of the images depict public displays of "denunciations," where the hair of prominent individuals is shaved. Other images show people bearing "dunce" hats; people with black paint spread over their faces; others wearing signs around their necks with writings that criticize their profession or names. Zhensheng also captured scenes of public executions of counterrevolutionaries who were never given a trial for their alleged crimes. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, Zhensheng was once more sent back to the countryside in September 1969. He was sent to the May 7th Cadre School in Liuhe, a labor camp where he and his wife, Zu Yingxia, spent two years performing hard labor. Zhensheng had taken meticulous care of the documented "negative" images he captured while at the newspaper, hiding them beneath a floorboard of his one-room apartment. The dry atmosphere and mild temperatures of Harbin aided the preservation of the photographic negatives.

While he was sent away, Zhensheng entrusted a friend to care for the apartment, and instructed him to never reveal the secrets it contained. Zhensheng returned to the newspaper in 1972 as the head of the photography department, and later became a professor at Peking University in 1982.

About Red-Color News Soldier
Red-Color News Soldier is a literal translation of the Chinese characters written on the armband Li Zhensheng wore during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Although, he says he never gave his alliance to Chairman Mao, wearing the arm band gave him unprecedented access to historic events, which have since shaped Chinese culture. The book covers the period from just before the Cultural Revolution in 1965 to just after in 1976. It is separated into five chronological sections: 1964-1966 titled "It is right to rebel"; 1966 titled "Bombard the Headquarters"; 1966-1968 titled "The Red Sun in our hearts"; 1968-1972 titled "Revolution is not a dinner party"; and 1972-1974 titled "Die Fighting." The veteran China analyst John Gittings was among the reviewers who welcomed Li's book. He noted that Li was a Red Guard as well as a photographer and did not deny that he also led "struggle sessions" against innocent victims; but his pictures reflect a deeper desire to record and understand. Li's book was "unique" for a simple reason: "Although the post-Mao Chinese government has labeled the cultural revolution '10 years of chaos,' it still tries to suppress any real inquiry into the countless human tragedies it caused..."

The book, which has not been published in China, took many years to publish. Zhensheng's "negative" pictures (those that depicted the atrocities of the cultural revolution) were first revealed publicly in March 1988 at a Chinese Press Association's photography competition in Beijing. The show, entitled "Let History Tell the Future" consisted of twenty images from his collection, which were deemed "counterrevolutionary. " In December of that year, Zhensheng met Robert Pledge, an American who was director of Contact Press Images, an international photo agency, who had come to Beijing. They agreed to work together on a book of Zhensheng's photos, but to wait until the political climate was right.

Seven months later, in June 1989, the brutal events of Tiananmen Square made worldwide headlines, and Zhensheng became determined to produce a book to show the world the images from the Cultural Revolution. Work on the book began in 1999. Since Pledge did not speak Chinese, and Zhensheng did not speak English, the two had to coordinate work through the use of translators — many of whom became integral parts of their relationship. Zhensheng sent over 30,000 brown envelopes to Pledge's office in New York City, each containing photographic negatives. A number of the images are self-portraits of Zhensheng.

This was the result of always returning to the paper with one extra frame on the film roll; a photojournalism technique of always being prepared to cover a breaking news event at the last minute. Zhensheng would "burn off" the last image with a photo of himself shortly before developing the film. Often the poses were humorous and playful. One such image of Zhensheng exposing his bare chest was published in the book He said he was attempting to recreate the old expression of "baring one's chest in the face of adversity," or in his case, communism.

During book tours Zhensheng makes a point to speak of his love for China. He says while he disagrees with the government, he still loves his country and hopes democracy will perhaps prevail in the long-term future. He does not believe his images or the book should be considered anti-Chinese, rather a reminder of the painful past many countries endure during their evolution.

Source: Wikipedia

 

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Library and Archives Canada holds his complete collection, including negatives, prints and documents. His photographic equipment was donated to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. Karsh published 15 books of his photographs, which include brief descriptions of the sessions, during which he would ask questions and talk with his subjects to relax them as he composed the portrait. Some famous subjects photographed by Karsh were Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Muhammad Ali, Marian Anderson, W. H. Auden, Joan Baez, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Humphrey Bogart, Alexander Calder, Pablo Casals, Fidel Castro, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Joan Crawford, Ruth Draper, Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Princess Elizabeth, Robert Frost, Clark Gable, Indira Gandhi, Grey Owl, Ernest Hemingway, Audrey Hepburn, Pope John Paul II, Chuck Jones, Carl Jung, Helen Keller and Polly Thompson, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, John F. 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"Two niggardly minutes in which I must try to put on film a man who had already written or inspired a library of books, baffled all his biographers, filled the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with dread." Churchill marched into the room scowling, "regarding my camera as he might regard the German enemy." His expression suited Karsh perfectly, but the cigar stuck between his teeth seemed incompatible with such a solemn and formal occasion. "Instinctively, I removed the cigar. At this the Churchillian scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger." The image captured Churchill and the Britain of the time perfectly — defiant and unconquerable. Churchill later said to him, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed." As such, Karsh titled the photograph, The Roaring Lion. 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Robert Heinecken
United States
1931 | † 2006
Robert Heinecken was an American artist who referred to himself as a "paraphotographer" because he so often made photographic images without a camera. Born in Denver in 1931, Heinecken grew up in Riverside, California, the son of a Lutheran minister. He joined the Navy in 1954 and served as a fighter pilot (though too short, he passed a height test by padding his socks with paper). Heinecken later served as an officer in the Marines, discharged as a captain in 1957. Heinecken completed his bachelor's and master's degrees in art at UCLA, where he studied printmaking as well as photography. Heinecken was known for appropriating and re-processing images from magazines, product packaging or television. In Are You Rea series from 1964 to 1968, for instance, he created a portfolio of images filled with unexpected and sometimes surreal juxtapositions by placing a single magazine page on a light table, so that the resulting contact print picks up imagery from both sides of the page. In the late 1960s, he also began cutting up popular magazines such as Time and Vogue and inserting sexual or pornographic images into them. He would place his collage-publications back on newsstands in Los Angeles to be sold to unsuspecting buyers. In 1962, he founded the photography program at UCLA. He taught there until 1991. In 1964 he helped found the Society for Photographic Education, an organization of college-level teachers. He also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where his second wife, Joyce Neimanas, was on faculty. They split their time between the two cities for several years before they moved to New Mexico in 2004. As a professor at UCLA, Heinecken was a prime mover in the Los Angeles art photography scene. His influence was felt by many students and associates. Among them were John Divola, Eileen Cowin, Graham Howe, Jo Ann Callis and Ray McSavaney. Many of them, in turn, became influences on succeeding generations of art photographers. From 1971 on he started to expose food directly on light-sensitive materials. He realized these "documentary photograms" first on black and white paper and later in color in the series Various Lunches on positive Ilfochrome paper. In 1983/84 he created such Foodograms even on large polaroid sheets (20x24 inches) in collaboration with John Reuter in San Diego and Boston. In the 1980s, he created several series on American news television that involved photographing images on the television or exposing the light of a television set directly to paper to create what he called "videograms." During his life he was mainly shown in traditional photography galleries, but two contemporary art galleries in L.A. began staging exhibitions of his work after his death: Marc Selwyn Fine Art and Cherry and Martin. Curators like Eva Respini at the Museum of Modern Art now place his work in a conceptual art lineage, associating him with Pictures Generations artists such as Cindy Sherman, John Baldessari and Richard Prince.
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Niko J. Kallianiotis' Athênai in Search of Home (published by Damiani) presents photos taken in and around Athens, the city in which he grew up. The images reflect the artist's eagerness to assimilate back into a home that feels at once foreign and familiar. Throughout the years the city and the surrounding territories have experienced their share of socio-economic struggles and topographic transformations that have altered its identity. The city of Athens in Kallianiotis' photographs is elliptically delineated as a vibrant environment that binds together luxury and social inequality. The photographer depicts a city in which the temporal and the spatial elements often clash with each other while conducting his research for a home that has changed over the years as much as he did.
Exclusive Interview with Ave Pildas
My new book STAR STRUCK focuses on the people and places of Hollywood Boulevard. Soon after I moved to Los Angeles in the '70s, I started shooting there. I was working at Capital Records, just a block and a half away, as a one of four art directors. At lunchtime, we would go out to eat at the Brown Derby, Musso, and Franks, or some other local restaurant, and I got to observe all the activity that was occurring on Hollywood Boulevard. It was amazing and it was fun, even though the location was ''on the turn''.
Exclusive Interview with Elaine Mayes
In The Haight-Ashbury Portraits, 1967-1968 (published by Damiani) during the waning days of the Summer of Love, Elaine Mayes embarked on a set of portraits of youth culture in her neighborhood. Mayes was a young photographer living in San Francisco during the 1960s. She had photographed the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and, later that year the hippie movement had turned from euphoria to harder drugs, and the Haight had become less of a blissed-out haven for young people seeking a better way of life than a halfway house for runaway teens.
Exclusive Interview with Theophilus Donoghue
A new release, Seventy-thirty (published by Damiani) depicts humanity's various faces and expressions, from metropolitans to migrants, unseen homeless to celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Muhammad Ali, Rene Magritte, Janis Joplin, and Andy Warhol. Steve Schapiro photographs early New York skateboarders while Theophilus Donoghue documents current Colombian breakdancers. Alternately profound and playful, father and son's photographs capture a vast range of human emotions and experiences. For this project, Schapiro selected images from the 60s civil rights movement and, with Donoghue, provided photos from today's Black Lives Matter protests and environmental rallies.
Exlusive Interview with Jessica Todd Harper about her Book Here
Like 17th-century Dutch painters who made otherwise ordinary interior scenes appear charged with meaning, Pennsylvania-based photographer Jessica Todd Harper looks for the value in everyday moments. Her third monograph Here (Published by Damiani) makes use of what is right in front of the artist, Harper shows how our unexamined or even seemingly dull surroundings can sometimes be illuminating
Exclusive Interview with Roger Ballen about his Book Boyhood
In Boyhood (published by Damiani) Roger Ballen's photographs and stories leads us across the continents of Europe, Asia and North America in search of boyhood: boyhood as it is lived in the Himalayas of Nepal, the islands of Indonesia, the provinces of China, the streets of America. Each stunning black-and-white photograph-culled from 15,000 images shot during Ballen's four-year quest-depicts the magic of adolescence revealed in their games, their adventures, their dreams, their Mischief. More of an ode than a documentary work, Ballen's first book is as powerful and current today as it was 43 years ago-a stunning series of timeless images that transcend social and cultural particularities.
Exclusive Interview with Kim Watson
A multi-dimensional artist with decades of experience, Kim Watson has written, filmed, and photographed subjects ranging from the iconic entertainers of our time to the ''invisible'' people of marginalized communities. A highly influential director in music videos' early days, Watson has directed Grammy winners, shot in uniquely remote locations, and written across genres that include advertising, feature films for Hollywood studios such as Universal (Honey), MTV Films, and Warner Brothers, and publishers such as Simon & Schuster. His passionate marriage of art and social justice has been a life-long endeavor, and, in 2020, after consulting on Engagement & Impact for ITVS/PBS, Kim returned to the streets to create TRESPASS, documenting the images and stories of LA's unhoused. TRESPASS exhibited at The BAG (Bestor Architecture Gallery) in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, September 17, 2022 – October 11, 2022.
Exclusive Interview with Julia Dean, Founder of the L.A. Project
Julia Dean, Founder of the Los Angeles Center of Photography, and its executive director for twenty-two years, began The L.A. Project in 2021. A native Nebraskan, Julia has long sought to create a special project where love for her adopted L.A., and her passion for documentary photography can be shared on a grander scale.
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