Wayne Liu is a photographer, born in Taiwan, who currently resides in New York. An exhibition of his work, entitled, "China, You Are A Luck Star" is currently showing at Chelsea Market. In his show, he captures the landscape of modern China, using black and white film. This week, on Coutorture, Liu shot garments from the Chris Han Spring/ Summer 2008 collection without any direction from us, save for the styling. Our interview with Liu, below.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you first became interested in photography?
I studied cinema for one year in Taiwan but dropped out because I didn’t feel right fitting in working with a crew. Shooting for me is solitary so I had less adjusting problems. But now that I’ve been more socially adaptive, I also enjoy collaborating with some friends.
How are these collaborations different now, what about the relationship has changed? Or have you changed?
Living the past 9 years in NYC, I’ve met many people along the way. After coming back from my one-month travel to China, I went through old negatives and found some snapshots of them that I had never printed. Alongside, I have been contacting others to come back to my life for a chat and photograph them as a document of whom I had befriended.
What are some of the main themes that you pursue in your photography? Why is this compelling to you?
When photographing in urban streets, the constant flow of people may either cause one to a scatterbrain existence and/or focus right into one’s obsessions, which in my case would be the city as my mis-en-scene and the individuals that navigate within, especially beautiful women in passing that I could not connect with due to the rules of the urban environment.
Is this scatterbrained existence, this anonymity resulting in idiosyncrasy, a natural human state? In other words, is it forced upon us or is it our most comfortable position?
I suppose it may relate to the complexities of our society and it’s distribution of information to each individual receiver. If each interprets without an authority (which happens to be the case even in dictatorial China), then where and what is our communication? Each person comes with their conditioning which speak forth as an obsession. I try photographing whatever I see (and not dwell in my desires ad infinitum) to show a range of objects that may strike a conversation of something other than myself. But the girls I shoot do open up a certain, dare I say, innate sadness I feel around.
The exhibit of your work currently at Chelsea Market, “China, You Are A Lucky Star”, was reviewed by one writer with the following reaction, Wayne is looking at a modernizing China. He identifies himself as a voyeur looking in. The visual texture of the images stands in contrast to the emotional tenor. The images repeatedly focus on individuals, singling them out of the crowd or catching them in isolation. They are content to glide between the gritty modernization of their country, and the aggressive photographic style. What is your reaction to this review? Would say it’s an accurate description of your exhibit?
Photographing is by definition an aggressive act and/of representing the world. It forces upon the viewer memories that may or may not be true, whilst I’m reminded when and how I print in the darkroom that everything from the negative is eventually my interpretation of what had happened.
In fashion, these interpretations have become paramount to the eventual messages we send. Does this power, of the photographer in the darkroom (or on his computer), ever become more powerful than his subject or his context? Or does the truth always come first?
Photography is a language guided by exposure to light and a rehashing of the world. The conquering power of tools have been with us for some time, but I feel regardless how I may print, the initial lure of what I shoot in the world haunts me still.
Link: Haunted by Wayne Liu