The Pingyao Experience – Part I, Enjoy the Chaos
Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province
China, 2010, 2011, 2012
by John B. Turner
co-editor PhotoForum (New Zealand)
John B Turner: Pingyao, September 2011. Remnants of previous year’s PIP linger until removed at the last moment.
It is not possible to list all of the fine work seen, or to mention all of the practitioners whose work impressed me: some because it was the best of its kind, and some for all the wrong reasons – because it seemed so superficial and misguided. In fact, I found that some of the award-winning exhibitions were weak or pretentious compared to some potent but overlooked work.
I am bemused by the Chinese propensity for grand gestures and the display of official certificates of approval for their work – by government agencies – as if the work can’t stand on its own or the audience is not smart enough to see through such humbug. It reminds me a lot of the old New Zealand camera club system which was fixated on gaining personal prestige at the expense of concentrating on honing the content and form of the work and its relevance to life in their times.
I am particularly interested in learning about Chinese photography and found that both young photographers and some of the more established exhibitors seemed hungry for informed critical feedback that is not being provided by their peers. It is not much fun when your work is ignored, so they might appreciate the observation that it is ok to make work that nobody seems to notice, as long as it is an honest expression of the things you value and want to share. That in the Western liberal art tradition, at least, it is expected that our work is made for ourselves, first and foremost.
Read the full article HERE.