|Chinese Sentiment, Photographs by Shen Wei. |
Published by Charles Lane Press, 2011.
Reviewed by Adam Bell
Shen Wei Chinese Sentiment
Photographs by Shen Wei
Charles Lane Press, 2011. Hardbound. 124 pp., 75 color illustrations, 9x12-1/4".
Judging solely by the numerous photobooks and news reports that have inundated the West in the past ten years, modern China appears alternatively as a skyscraper laden wonderland or a threatening economic and political juggernaut. Rarely do more nuanced reports or reflections on these radical changes appear in the West. Avoiding the jingoistic and sensationalist tenor of recent books, Shen Wei's first book, Chinese Sentiment, offers an antidote to the neon tigers and faceless masses of recent photographic work on China. Instead, Shen presents a beautiful dream fugue about contemporary China in the throws of tumultuous change that even its populace hasn't quite fully comprehended.
Leaving his hometown of Shanghai at a young age, Shen came to the United States to study art and later photography. Returning many years later, Chinese Sentiment is his love letter to a China he has lost, but never forgotten. Captured by the eyes of a returning ex-pat, he creates intimate images infused with romantic longing for a world in which he no longer entirely belongs. Avoiding the major urban areas, Shen focuses on smaller cities and peripheral communities that exist outside the major development zones of China. Intimate portraits and nudes mix with restrained landscapes and details offering a poetic portrait of a country in flux.
Adam Bell is a photographer and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. He received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and his work has been exhibited and published internationally. He is the co-editor and co-author, with Charles H. Traub and Steve Heller, of The Education of a Photographer (Allworth Press, 2006). His writing has appeared in Foam Magazine, Lay Flat and Ahorn Magazine. He is currently on staff and faculty at the School of Visual Arts' MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department.