Living in a time where truths have become increasingly harder to come by, how do we actively get closer to reality? Perhaps by documenting our own city through the art of photography, we can use image representations to reconstruct the cultural landscapes of cities?
At the first Leica Street Photography Festival launched earlier in Shanghai, works from a panel of street photography masters are showcased, including the London-based Street photographer Alan Schaller, Shin Noguchi from Japan, Tao Liu from China and three other contemporary Chinese photographers Zhu Mo, Tang Ting and DJ Forget. Through their lens, both the fantasy and reality in our daily life are captured, which in turn provides important image records of the street cultures in different epochs, offering a good glimpse of how people express themselves in the pursuit of their ideal life.
Alan Schaller only threw himself into the photography field 5 years ago, but the collective he founded — Street Photography International — has already garnered widespread attention and interest. Its quick success is mainly attributed to the captivating power of the works, which can leave a lasting impression. Schaller believes black and white photography is free of the interference of colors and can better draw viewers’ focus onto the image composition, light and shade, as well as the objects themselves. In the Metropolis series, the stark contrast of light and shade has revealed a kind of geometric surrealism. The dramatic composition has created a tension that is mesmerizing enough to hold one’s breath. Under Schaller’s lens, people in the city seem to be continually on a quest. There is an underlying mood of isolation in the pictures.
Quite contrary to Schaller, the Japanese photographer Shin Noguchi produces works that are more laid back and intimate, even humorous at times. To him, the streets are the stage to represent everyday life. To capture a frame of life is a record of reality. He is never really a perfectionist when it comes to acquiring the “ideal” image. He mostly captures scenes in his own city Kamakura and Tokyo, where he frequently commutes to. The three daughters and the Shiba dog he has at home are also regular objects under his lens. To Noguchi, sweet life is simply a collection of many ordinary but delightful moments, which are exactly reflected by his photographs.
Similarly, the young Chinese photographer Tao Liu present witty images which poke fun at contemporary issues in China. Working as a water-meter reader for the Hefei Water Supply Company, he has to spend his day navigating through the streets of Hefei to record businesses’ water usage. Armed with a camera, he captures people’s lives in the local markets, grocery stores, and residential areas. His sharp eyes on details combined with a wicked sense of humor have managed to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary. Through his lens, some elements of intimate charm among the most ordinary people are enlarged and represented.
The streets always provide the best platform to understand the city, its people, and its culture. To depict the actual faces of people’s real lives, and bring imagination to our mundane everyday life – isn’t this the essence of photography after all?