All about photo.com: photo contests, photography exhibitions, galleries, photographers, books, schools and venues.
Cally Whitham
Cally Whitham
Cally Whitham

Cally Whitham

Country: New Zealand

Taking an idealistic view of the world, Cally Whitham records the ordinary, transforming it into a surreal image, reflecting the way things are perceived and altered through nostalgia and memory. Driven by a desire to remember, Whitham uses her camera to collect images, which allows her to preserve her surroundings forever.

At the age of 11, she spent Christmas using her first roll of film shooting her favourite things, including her aunt's farm, an old house she wanted to live in and a big tree at the beach. As an adult she returns to similar subjects recaptured in shadows of times past.

Based in New Zealand, Whitham finds the subtle, forgotten and overlooked in these locations, which are touched with beauty through their ordinariness and familiarity. Layering her photographs with emotion, the works explore the ways in which personal milieus are captured.

Source: www.cally.co.nz


The New Zealand photographer Cally Whitham focuses her artistic research on the depiction of everyday life She began photography at 11 years old when accompanying her father who was a painter. He roamed the countryside to do sketches of forests and farms. From an early age she therefore had painting as an artistic reference and mastered the techniques of the Beaux Arts.

Source: Yellow Korner



Interview With Cally Whitham:

AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?
"When I was about 16 I think. I took a class at school and was hooked."

AAP: Where did you study photography?
"I studied at the Design School, which has since become Unitech."

AAP: How long have you been a photographer?
"21 years, with a few years break in the middle."

AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
"The first photo I ever took was of my grandparents and brother at a beach. I couldn't believe I was allowed to take a photo!"

AAP: What or who inspires you?
"Light inspires me. When the quality of light is just right anything seems possible; the unworthy becomes photogenic."

AAP: How could you describe your style?
"Pictorialism"

AAP: Do you have a favorite photograph or series?
"Wow, too hard to choose!"

AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?
"Yes I do. The initial photo is just a part of the process in creating an image. Post production is the place where the image and the vision I had come together. I don't photograph reality but rather create a potential or ideal reality and that potential is added in post production."

AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?
"Alfred steiglitz in his early days and Julia Margaret Cameron."

AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer?
"Have a back job to pay the bills - it's a tough industry now to try to pay a mortgage on."

AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid?
"Not understanding the business, tax and admin side of being a photographer."

AAP: Your best memory has a photographer?
"The moments I have realized I was on to something during a shoot."

 

Cally Whitham's Video

Inspiring Portfolios

Call for Entries
AAP Magazine #39 Shadows
Publish your work in AAP Magazine and win $1,000 Cash Prizes
 
Stay up-to-date  with call for entries, deadlines and other news about exhibitions, galleries, publications, & special events.

More Great Photographers To Discover

Robert Frank
Switzerland/United States
1924 | † 2019
Robert Frank was a Swiss photographer and documentary filmmaker, who became an American binational. His most notable work, the 1958 book titled The Americans, earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and nuanced outsider's view of American society. Critic Sean O'Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said The Americans "changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it. it remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century." Frank later expanded into film and video and experimented with manipulating photographs and photomontage. I’m always looking outside, trying to look inside. Trying to say something that is true. But maybe nothing is really true. Except what’s out there. And what’s out there is always changing. -- Robert Frank Frank was born in Zürich, Switzerland, the son of Rosa (Zucker) and Hermann Frank. His family was Jewish. Robert states in Gerald Fox's 2004 documentary Leaving Home, Coming Home that his mother, Rosa (other sources state her name as Regina), had a Swiss passport, while his father, Hermann originating from Frankfurt, Germany had become stateless after losing his German citizenship as a Jew. They had to apply for Swiss citizenship for Robert and his older brother, Manfred. Though Frank and his family remained safe in Switzerland during World War II, the threat of Nazism nonetheless affected his understanding of oppression. He turned to photography, in part as a means to escape the confines of his business-oriented family and home, and trained under a few photographers and graphic designers before he created his first hand-made book of photographs, 40 Fotos, in 1946. Frank emigrated to the United States in 1947 and secured a job in New York City as a fashion photographer for Harper's Bazaar. In 1949, the new editor of Camera magazine, Walter Laubli (1902-1991), published a substantial portfolio of Jakob Tuggener pictures made at upper-class entertainments and in factories, alongside the work of the 25-year-old Frank who had just returned to his native Switzerland after two years abroad, with pages including some of his first pictures from New York. The magazine promoted the two as representatives of the 'new photography' of Switzerland. Tuggener was a role model for the younger artist, first mentioned to him by Frank's boss and mentor, Zurich commercial photographer Michael Wolgensinger (1913-1990) who understood that Frank was unsuited to the more mercenary application of the medium. Tuggener, as a serious artist who had left the commercial world behind, was the "one Frank really did love, from among all Swiss photographers," according to Guido Magnaguagno and Fabrik, as a photo book, was a model for Frank's Les Américains ('The Americans') published ten years later in Paris by Delpire, in 1958. He soon left to travel in South America and Europe. He created another hand-made book of photographs that he shot in Peru, and returned to the U.S. in 1950. That year was momentous for Frank, who, after meeting Edward Steichen, participated in the group show 51 American Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); he also married fellow artist Mary Frank née Mary Lockspeiser, with whom he had two children, Andrea and Pablo. Though he was initially optimistic about the United States' society and culture, Frank's perspective quickly changed as he confronted the fast pace of American life and what he saw as an overemphasis on money. He now saw America as an often bleak and lonely place, a perspective that became evident in his later photography. Frank's own dissatisfaction with the control that editors exercised over his work also undoubtedly colored his experience. He continued to travel, moving his family briefly to Paris. In 1953, he returned to New York and continued to work as a freelance photojournalist for magazines including McCall's, Vogue, and Fortune. Associating with other contemporary photographers such as Saul Leiter and Diane Arbus, he helped form what Jane Livingston has termed The New York School of photographers (not to be confused with the New York School of art) during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1955, Frank achieved further recognition with the inclusion by Edward Steichen of seven of his photographs (many more than most other contributors) in the world-touring Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Family of Man that was to be seen by 9 million visitors and with a popular catalog that is still in print. Frank's contributions had been taken in Spain (of a woman kissing her swaddled babe-in-arms); of a bowed old woman in Peru; a rheumy-eyed miner in Wales; and the others in England and the US, including two (one atypically soft-focus) of his wife in pregnancy; and one (later to be included in The Americans) of six laughing women in the window of the White Tower Hamburger Stand on Fourteenth Street, New York City. The truth is somewhere between the documentary and the fictional, and that is what I try to show. What is real one moment has become imaginary the next. You believe what you see now, and the next second you don’t anymore. -- Robert Frank Inspired by fellow Swiss Jakob Tuggener's 1943 book Fabrik, Bill Brandt's The English at Home (1936), and Walker Evans's American Photographs (1938), and on the recommendation of Evans (a previous recipient), Alexey Brodovitch, Alexander Leiberman, Edward Steichen, and Meyer Schapiro, Frank secured a Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1955 to travel across the United States and photograph all strata of its society. Cities he visited included Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Chicago, Illinois. He took his family along with him for part of his series of road trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000 shots. 83 of these were selected by him for publication in The Americans. Frank's journey was not without incident. He later recalled the anti-Semitism to which he was subject in a small Arkansas town. "I remember the guy [policeman] took me into the police station, and he sat there and put his feet on the table. It came out that I was Jewish because I had a letter from the Guggenheim Foundation. They really were primitive." He was told by the sheriff, "Well, we have to get somebody who speaks Yiddish." ... "They wanted to make a thing out of it. It was the only time it happened on the trip. They put me in jail. It was scary. Nobody knew where I was." Elsewhere in the South, he was told by a sheriff that he had "an hour to leave town." Those incidents may have contributed to the dark view of America found in the work. Shortly after returning to New York in 1957, Frank met Beat writer Jack Kerouac "at a New York party where poets and Beatniks were," and showed him the photographs from his travels. However, according to Joyce Johnson, Kerouac's lover at the time, she met Frank while waiting for Kerouac to emerge from a conference with his editors, at Viking Press, looked at Frank's portfolio, and introduced them to each other. Kerouac immediately told Frank, "Sure I can write something about these pictures." He eventually contributed the introduction to the U.S. edition of The Americans. Frank also became lifelong friends with Allen Ginsberg, and was one of the main visual artists to document the Beat subculture, which felt an affinity with Frank's interest in documenting the tensions between the optimism of the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth over this tension gave his photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of unusual focus, low lighting, and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques. This divergence from contemporary photographic standards gave Frank difficulty at first in securing an American publisher. Les Américains was first published in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris, as part of its Encyclopédie Essentielle series, with texts by Simone de Beauvoir, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Henry Miller and John Steinbeck that Delpire positioned opposite Frank's photographs. It was finally published in 1959 in the United States, without the texts, by Grove Press, where it initially received substantial criticism. Popular Photography, for one, derided his images as "meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness." Though sales were also poor at first, the fact that the introduction was by the popular Kerouac helped it reach a larger audience. Over time and through the inspiration of later artists, The Americans became a seminal work in American photography and art history, and is the work with which Frank is most clearly identified. In 1961, Frank received his first individual show, entitled Robert Frank: Photographer, at the Art Institute of Chicago. He also showed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1962. By the time The Americans was published in the United States in 1959, Frank had moved away from photography to concentrate on filmmaking. Among his films was the 1959 Pull My Daisy, which was written and narrated by Kerouac and starred Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and others from the Beat circle. The Beats emphasized spontaneity, and the film conveyed the quality of having been thrown together or even improvised. Pull My Daisy was accordingly praised for years as an improvisational masterpiece, until Frank's co-director, Alfred Leslie, revealed in a November 28, 1968 article in the Village Voice that the film was actually carefully planned, rehearsed, and directed by him and Frank, who shot the film with professional lighting. Though Frank continued to be interested in film and video, he returned to still images in the 1970s, publishing his second photographic book, The Lines of My Hand, in 1972. This work has been described as a "visual autobiography", and consists largely of personal photographs. However, he largely gave up "straight" photography to instead create narratives out of constructed images and collages, incorporating words and multiple frames of images that were directly scratched and distorted on the negatives. None of this later work has achieved an impact comparable to that of The Americans. As some critics have pointed out, this is perhaps because Frank began playing with constructed images more than a decade after Robert Rauschenberg introduced his silkscreen composites—in contrast to The Americans, Frank's later images simply were not beyond the pale of accepted technique and practice by that time. Frank and Mary separated in 1969. He remarried, to sculptor June Leaf, and in 1971, moved to the community of Mabou, Nova Scotia in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia in Canada. In 1974, his daughter, Andrea, was killed in a plane crash in Tikal, Guatemala. Also around this time, his son, Pablo, was first hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Much of Frank's subsequent work dealt with the impact of the loss of both his daughter and subsequently his son, who died in an Allentown, Pennsylvania hospital in 1994. In 1995, in memory of his daughter, he founded the Andrea Frank Foundation, which provides grants to artists. After his move to Nova Scotia, Canada, Frank divided his time between his home there, in a former fisherman's shack on the coast, and his Bleecker Street loft in New York. He acquired a reputation for being a recluse (particularly since the death of Andrea), declining most interviews and public appearances. He continued to accept eclectic assignments, however, such as photographing the 1984 Democratic National Convention and directing music videos for artists such as New Order ("Run"), and Patti Smith ("Summer Cannibals"). Frank produced both films and still images, and helped organize several retrospectives of his art. His work has been represented by Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York since 1984. In 1994, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. presented the most comprehensive retrospective of Frank's work to date, entitled Moving Out. Frank died on September 9, 2019, at his home in Nova Scotia.Source: Wikipedia I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others—perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph. -- Robert Frank
Larry Towell
Canada
1953
Larry Towell (born 1953) is a Canadian photographer, poet, and oral historian. Towell is known for his photographs of sites of political conflict in the Ukraine, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Standing Rock and Afghanistan, among others. In 1988, Towell became the first Canadian member of Magnum Photos. Towell was born in Chatham-Kent, Ontario and grew up in a large family in rural Ontario, attending local schools. At college, he studied visual arts at York University in Toronto, where his interest in photography first began. In 1976 Towell volunteered to work in Calcutta, India, where he became interested in questions about the distribution of wealth and issues of land and landlessness. Returning to Canada, Towell taught folk music and wrote poetry during the 1980s. He became a freelance photographer in 1984. His early work included projects on the Contra war in Nicaragua, the civil war in El Salvador, relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala, and American Vietnam War veterans who worked to rebuild Vietnam. His first magazine essay looked at the ecological damages from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1988, Towell joined the Magnum Photos agency, becoming the first Canadian associated with the group. He has had picture essays published in The New York Times, Life, Rolling Stone, and other magazines. His work has included documentation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Mennonite migrant workers in Mexico, and a personal project on his family's farm in southern Ontario. He works in both film and digital photography formats. He has said "Black and white is still the poetic form of photography. Digital is for the moment; black and white is an investment of time and love." He has also worked with panoramic cameras to documents the impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. From 2008 to 2011, Towell traveled five times to Afghanistan to photograph the social effects of the Afghan civil war. Between 2013 and 2015, Towell photographed the above and underground construction work in Toronto's Union Station. In 2015 his photo Isaac's first swim was published by Canada Post as a stamp. In 2016 Towell photographed the Standing Rock protest in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Towell has published books of photographs, poetry, and oral history. He has also recorded several audio CDs of original poetry and songs. Towell lives in rural Lambton County Ontario and sharecrops a 75-acre farm with his wife Ann and their four children.Source: Wikipedia Larry Towell is Canada's most decorated photojournalist and is the country's first photographer to be made a member of Magnum, the world's most prestigious photo agency that was founded by Henry Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa in 1947. Larry served as Vice-President of Magnum's New York office for several years between 2007 and 2016. After completing a Visual Arts degree at York University, Toronto, he began photographing and writing in Calcutta. He then went on to complete book projects in Central America on the Nicaraguan Contra War and on the relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala. In 1996, Towell completed a monograph based on ten years of reportage in the brutal civil war in El Salvador, followed by a major book on the Palestinians. His fascination with landlessness also led him to the Mennonite migrant workers of Mexico, an eleven-year work he completed in 2000. After receiving the inaugural Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, Larry finished a second critically acclaimed book on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (No Man's Land, 2005), followed by The World From My Front Porch (2008) and most recently, Afghanistan (2014). Towell's photo stories have been published in many international magazines including; LIFE, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Elle, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Geo, and Stern. His international photo awards include: The Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (first recipient); several first place World Press awards including the 1994 Photo of the Year; a Hasselblad Award; The Alfred Eisenstadt Award; The Oskar Barnack Award; the first Roloff Beny Book prize, a Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award, the Prix Nadar of France, and a British Design and Art Direction (D&AD) Award. Larry is also a gifted writer and musician and is known for his innovative live performances incorporating original music, video, poetry, and stills. He is the author of four music albums, fourteen books, as well as Indecisive Moments (2008), an award-winning short film. Towell has had numerous one person and group exhibitions around the globe and is represented in many international public and private collections. His current projects include the war in Ukraine and Central American migrants crossing Mexico. Larry lives in rural Ontario where he sharecrops a 75-acre farm.Source: www.bulgergallery.com
Rachel Nixon
United Kingdom/Canada
Rachel Nixon is a British-Canadian fine art photographer – and former journalist – based in Vancouver. Having lived and worked across continents and cultures, she explores issues such as a desire for connection with one’s heritage, as well as secrecy, isolation and memory. She is intrigued by the visual poetry of everyday life and intuitively seeks out images speaking to beauty and broader messages in the seemingly mundane. In 2019, Rachel graduated with honours from the VanArts professional photography program. Since then, her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and she has received a number of accolades including being a four-time category winner in the Julia Margaret Cameron Awards. In 2024, she was named among Dodho Magazine’s top 100 fine art photographers. Rachel has earned attention for her series ''The Garden of Maggie Victoria'', which revives the story of her forgotten great-grandmother through collages integrating archive and contemporary images. In 2023, the series was selected for Blue Sky Gallery’s Pacific Northwest Drawers, and designated a finalist in Critical Mass and the Royal Photographic Society’s IPE 165. Before committing full-time to visual art, Rachel had a 20-year career as a journalist in the UK, US and Canada for the BBC, CBC and Microsoft where she developed and ran digital news services that reached millions. Her passion for storytelling, love of innovation and experimentation, and drive for excellence now extend to her photographic work. Rachel holds a first-class degree from the University of Oxford in Modern Languages. Her wide-ranging international experience offers a unique perspective on identity, place and belonging, and the connections we share despite polarized times.
Fausto Podavini
Fausto Podavini was born in Rome, where he still lives and works. His passion for photography began when he was 18, first as assistant and studio photographer, then working on ethnological and social reportage. In 1992, he worked at MIFAV, the photography museum at Tor Vergata University in Rome and then studied at the John Kaverdash photography academy in Milan, taking a master’s degree in reportage. Podavini left studio photography to dedicate himself exclusively to reportage, and is nowadays a freelance photographer, collaborating with a number of NGOs. He has covered issues in Italy, Peru, Kenya, and Ethiopia, where he is currently developing personal photographic projects.Italian social reportage photographer Fausto Podavini is honoured this year as both third place winner in the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Lifestyle category as well as first prize for the 2013 World Press Photo's 'Daily Life' category. His winning series, follows the relationship of Mirella and Luigi as Mirella cared for for husband at home in Rome. Married for over 40 years, Luigi began experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. For six years, Mirella tended to her husband's needs due to the progressive degenerative illness. After five years of living with Alzheimers, Luigi no longer recongised his wife; he died in May 2011 with her at his bedside. Podavini's intimate and delicate series follows Mirella for four years. WPO's Kaley Sweeney spoke to the photographer a bit more about his experiences developing the long term project. (Source: World Photography Organisation)
Roman Vishniac
Russia/United States
1897 | † 1990
Roman Vishniac was a Russian-American photographer, best known for capturing on film the culture of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. A major archive of his work was housed at the International Center of Photography until 2018, when Vishniac's daughter, Mara Vishniac Kohn, donated it to The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California, Berkeley. Vishniac was a versatile photographer, an accomplished biologist, an art collector and teacher of art history. He also made significant scientific contributions to photomicroscopy and time-lapse photography. Vishniac was very interested in history, especially that of his ancestors, and strongly attached to his Jewish roots; he was a Zionist later in life. Roman Vishniac won international acclaim for his photos of shtetlach and Jewish ghettos, celebrity portraits, and microscopic biology. His book A Vanished World, published in 1983, made him famous and is one of the most detailed pictorial documentations of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe in the 1930s. Vishniac was also remembered for his humanism and respect for life, sentiments that can be seen in all aspects of his work. In 2013, Vishniac's daughter Mara (Vishniac) Kohn donated to the International Center of Photography the images and accompanying documents comprising ICP's Roman Vishniac Rediscovered travelling exhibition. In October, 2018, Kohn donated the Vishniac archive of an estimated 30,000 items, including photo negatives, prints, documents and other memorabilia that had been housed at ICP to the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, a unit of the University of California at Berkeley's library system.Source: Wikipedia As the Nazis rose to power in Berlin, Vishniac photographed the ominous changes in the city and also worked to document Germany-Jewish relief and social service organizations. In 1935, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) hired Vishniac to travel to Eastern Europe and take photographs documenting Jewish poverty and relief efforts to be used in its fundraising campaigns. In 1939, Vishniac pursued other AJDC assignments in Western Europe and worked as a freelance photographer there. After the German invasion of France, he was arrested and sent to an internment camp. With help from the AJDC and the remainder of his family’s resources, he secured the release and immigrated with his wife and two children to the United States via Portugal in December 1940. They settled in New York, where Vishniac worked as a photographer, making portraits and documenting Jewish refugees and American-Jewish community life. In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe to document the aftermath of the war and the plight of refugees and those living in displaced persons camps. Back in the United States, Vishniac continued his work as photographer and scientist and became a pioneer in the new field of photomicroscopy. Vishniac’s photographs of Jewish life in prewar Eastern Europe gained renown in the aftermath of the Holocaust and were used to illustrate numerous books. Many people today are familiar with his work from his book A Vanished World (1983). However, the public saw only a small fraction of Vishniac’s work before his daughter, Mara Vishniac Kohn, entrusted his images to ICP and the Museum. This project makes them available to the public at large in hopes of learning more about the subjects of his photographs.Source: Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum As an amateur photographer, Roman Vishniac took to the streets with his camera throughout the 1920s and ’30s, offering an astute, often humorous visual commentary on his adopted city and experimenting with new and modern approaches to framing and composition. Documenting the rise of Nazi power, he focused his lens on the signs of oppression and doom that soon formed the backdrop of his Berlin street photography. From 1935 to 1938, while living in Berlin and working as a biologist and science photographer, he was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), then the world’s largest Jewish relief organization, to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. On New Year’s Eve, 1940, he arrived in New York and soon opened a portrait studio. At the same time, he began documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life and established himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe and documented Jewish displaced persons camps and the ruins of Berlin. During this time, he also recorded the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives and the work of the JDC and other Jewish relief organizations in providing them with aid and emigration assistance.Source: International Center of Photography
Ren Hang
Chinese
1987 | † 2017
Ren Hang (Chinese: 任航; March 30, 1987 – February 24, 2017) was a Chinese photographer and poet. During Ren's incipient career, he was known mostly for nude photographic portraits of his friends. His work is significant for its representation of Chinese sexuality within a heavily censored society. For these erotic undertones, he was arrested by PRC authorities several times. He received the backing of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who included Ren in his 2013 Netherlands show, Fuck Off 2 The Sequel, and curated the photographer's 2014 exhibition in Paris, France. Ren's erotic, playful and casual yet provocative expression gained him worldwide fame. Ren was born in 1987, in a suburb of Changchun, Jilin province, in northeastern China. In 2007, in order to relieve the boredom of studying advertising at college, he bought a point-and-shoot camera and began shooting his friends. As a self-taught photographer, he said his style of photography was inspired by the artist Shūji Terayama. Ren suffered from depression. He posted a series of diary entries titled My depression on his blog, recording the fear, anxiety and internal conflicts he experienced. Ren died by suicide on February 24, 2017 in Beijing. Ren Hang first began taking pictures of his roommates and friends in 2007, shooting them in the nude as all were close and seeking excitement. In an interview, he also admitted: “I usually shoot my friends, because strangers make me nervous.” He arranged his subjects' naked limbs in his photographs. Ren did not consider his work inappropriate: “I don’t really view my work as taboo, because I don’t think so much in cultural context, or political context. I don’t intentionally push boundaries, I just do what I do.” This may account for his reticence to limit his work to indoor settings. He said there were no preferred places for him to work, as he believed anywhere was beautiful and worthy to be shot, including sparse studios, parks forests, and atop buildings. Ren's photos employ nude groups and solo portraits of men and women often contorted into highly performative positions. For example, hands reach down milky thighs, a limp penis flops onto a watermelon and a series of backsides imitate a mountain range. Questioning the purpose of his work, he once stated that his creation was a way to seek fun for both photographer and the photographed. However, once he had reached fame on an international level, he began to think deeply about his work. The British Journal of Photography quoted him as once saying: "I don't want others having the impression that Chinese people are robots... Or they do have sexual genitals but always keep them as some secret treasures. I want to say that our cocks and pussies are not embarrassing at all." Ren also focused on marginalised people in Chinese society with gender identity disorders by 'indeterminating' sex and gender in some of his work: a group of naked bodies stacked together, men wearing silk stockings and wearing lipstick. He denied having a preference in models: “Gender… only matters to me when I’m having sex.” The international quarterly photography journal Aperture used his photo as the cover for its Queer theme. Commentators also see his work, the naked body and the starched penis, as evolving sexual mores and the struggle for creative and sexual freedom in a conservative, tightly controlled society. But Ren Hang also announced "I don't try to get a message across, I don't give my works names, I don't date them. I don’t want to instill them with any vocabulary. I don't like to explain my photos or work as a whole". It has been mentioned that Ren's work is softcore pornography because of the degree of nudity and sex in it, but he also worked with other themes. The most famous was titled My Mum. Although still under a fetishistic atmosphere, posing with usual props in Ren's works like animals and plants, Ren's mother posed as a clothed model, in a light-hearted way to represent her daily life. Ren's photographs have been included in magazines L'Officiel, GQ Style, and Vice. He worked with fashion companies Gucci, Rick Owens, and Loewe. Ren's work is included in Frank Ocean's magazine Boys Don't Cry. Ren Hang is noted to be greatly influenced by Chinese and Asian contemporary art and in particular, Japanese photographer and contemporary artist Nobuyoshi Araki. Ren Hang mainly worked with a simple point-and-shoot camera. He would direct the models as to how to place their bodies and shoot in quick succession. Genitalia, breasts and anuses were not covered up, but featured, or accentuated with props and close-ups. Colors were rich and high in contrast, increasing visual impact. This, along with the fact all bodies were slim, lithe and relatively hairless, made the impact of his photographs more impressive. His work communicated a raw, stark aesthetic that countered taboos and celebrated sexuality and it was this contemporary form of poeticism in a visual context in which Ren Hang expressed themes of identity, the body, love, loss and death. Nudity is not a theme in art that can be widely accepted by the Chinese older generation. Ren Hang's works are sometimes misinterpreted by the public as pornography. Although some have written that Ren Hang used his photographs to challenge Chinese cultural norms of shame around nudity, he did not believe he was challenging the stereotype and leading a revolution. For him, nudity and sexuality are natural themes which he used in his work. "Nudes are there since always. We were born nude. So talking about revolution, I don't think there's anything to revolutionize. Unless people are born with clothes on, and I want to take their clothes off, then I think this is a revolution. If it was already like that, then it's not a revolution. I just photographed things on their more natural conditions." He said he was not trying to liberate nudity and sexuality since he believed that the Chinese young generation was open-minded and less affected by the old-fashioned cultures. When Ren Hang talked about the question whether the topic of sexuality was still a taboo in China, he said: "I don't think it's related to our times, these are individual cases. Like how to say it, I think it depends on different people, it doesn't really relate to other things. I was not in the whole parents told you that you can only have sex if you get married era. The time after I grow up was already over that period, it was already different like everyone was already more relaxed."Source: Wikipedia Flesh, corpses, souls and bland flashlights, all composite into seconds or milliseconds of lights and shadows, projecting onto the film that never knows how to lie. Focus gathering and the shutter releasing, connecting his unpretentious, rebellious, wild and free perspectives towards the naked human body. The images look so natural, yet fun and unexpected. One soul after another all blossom like a newborn baby, urging to crawl out of his mother’s womb, dying to be redefined. In this era that we live in, being censored by the Chinese government has almost become a stamp of approval for contemporary artists. Ren Hang, a young man with a mature look and tanned skin, hair as short as a Chinese soldiers’, always carrying an irresistibly cute and innocent smile on his cheeks. He is, perhaps, the sole artist and photographer with the most edgy outlook towards the naked human body. Ren Hang continues to stress the fact that he is “boring“. Especially when asked about those basic questions of his inspirational origins and meanings behind the photos, he always just smiles naively, shakes his shoulders and says, “I don’t really know. I never really thought about it.” Perhaps he is such a paver, heading towards the direction of happiness and creative freedom without realizing the pathways he has left behind. You might find him confusing and puzzling, but he has the ambience of such kindness that you would always trust that no evil can come out from him. He is merely a pure form of naked human beings. Source: ITSLIQUID
Advertisement
AAP Magazine #39: Shadows
April 2024 Online Solo Exhibition
AAP Magazine #39: Shadows

Latest Interviews

Barbara Cole and Wet Collodion Photographs
Cole is best known for her underwater photography, but her other studio practice during the cold months in Toronto is an ongoing series of wet collodion photographs. This heavily analog process from the 19th Century is a years-long endeavor of revitalization and experimentation, offering modern day viewers an understanding of what it took to develop photographs in the early days of its invention. Cole has added her own unique take on the process by adding a layer of color in contrast to the usual sepia tones associated with the genre. The resulting wet plate photographs are tactile and dimensional dances between light and shadow, past and present, depicting women in timeless dreamscapes. We asked her a few questions about this specific project
Exclusive Interview with Michael Joseph
I discovered Michael Joseph's work in 2016, thanks to Ann Jastrab. I was immediately captivated by the power of his beautiful black and white photographs from his series 'Lost and Found.' His haunting portraits of young Travelers have stayed with me ever since.
Exclusive Interview with Debe Arlook
Debe Arlook is an award-winning American artist working in photography. Through color and diverse photographic processes, Arlook’s conceptual work is a response to her surroundings and the larger environment, as she attempts to understand the inner and outer worlds of human relationships. Degrees in filmmaking and psychology inform these views.
Orchestrating Light: Seth Dickerman Talks About his Passion for Photographic Printmaking
Seth Dickerman is a master manipulator of the wide spectrum of light densities that reflect off the surface of a photographic print and enter into our field of vision. His singular intent in making prints is to bring out the best an image has to offer, which means giving an image the ability to hold our attention, to engage us, and to allow us to discover something about an image that is meaningful and significant.
Exclusive Interview with Michel Haddi
Photographer and film director, Michel Haddi has photographed many high-profile celebrities while living in the USA including, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Uma Thurman, Francis Ford Coppola, Cameron Diaz, Faye Dunaway, Nicholas Cage, Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, Angelina Jolie, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. He also manages a publishing house, MHS publishing, which publishes his own books. Currently based in London we have asked him a few questions about his life and work
Exclusive Interview with Sebastien Sardi
In 2008, Swedish photographer Sebastian Sardi, inspired by an article exposing hidden mining-related incidents, embarked on a photography journey. Without formal training, he explored mines and ventured to India's Jharkhand state to document coal miners in Dhanbad, known as the "coal capital." His project, "Black Diamond," captured the lives of people, including men, women, and children, dedicated to coal extraction in grueling conditions.
Exclusive Interview with Debra Achen
Monterey-based photographer Debra Achen was born and raised near Pittsburgh, PA, where she developed a passion for both nature and art. She studied a variety of studio arts, including drawing, painting, and printmaking in addition to her training in traditional film and darkroom photography. Her project 'Folding and Mending' won the September 2022 Solo Exhibition. We asked here a few questions about her life and work.
Exclusive Interview with Steve Hoffman
Steve Hoffman is a documentary photographer who has who spent the last dozen years working with and photographing the people that live the housing projects in Coney Island. He was the winner of the July and August 2022 Solo Exhibition. We asked him a few questions about his life and work.
Exclusive Interview with Aya Okawa
Aya is passionate about exploring the natural world and protecting ecosystems and wild landsAll about Photo: Tell us about your first introduction to photography. What drew you into this world? Her project The Systems That Shape Us'won the February 2022 Solo Exhibition. We asked her a few questions about her life and her work.
Call for Entries
AAP Magazine #39 Shadows
Publish your work in AAP Magazine and win $1,000 Cash Prizes