I once heard a writer giving advice to friend. She said that when addressing big subjects, generalized statements generally fail, and that you can say much more with a small story.
It’s been 15 years since I lived in Beijing, but I stayed long enough to at least start to get a sense of the place and the people. Yet most of the photographs and art that come out of China don’t really depict what I experienced on the street, wandering through neighborhoods, taking buses around the country, talking to people. Over the years, I have only met a few artists whose work truly represents what life in modern China feels like. The paintings of Liu Xiao Dong and the photographs of Zhang Xiao come to mind. It is fitting that the Chinese word “xiao” means “small.” Zhang Xiao’s work is not monumental or political or controversial, at least on the surface. Nor is it naïve or simply bucolic. It is honest and layered, and on a human scale. It depicts beauty and flaws equally.
I have respect for artists who work day jobs. The poet William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician; photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard was an optician; author Lucia Berlin was a maid. In many cases like these, the artist’s day job helps them hone a sense of empathy that influences their artistic output. Zhang Xiao made these pictures while working as a staff photographer for the Chongqing Morning Post. He carried two cameras — one for the paper, and one for himself. The result is this ser ies of pictures he calls “They.”
Zhang Xiao (1981) is a Chinese photographer who studied architecture and design and worked first as a photojournalist for the Chongqing Morning Post. He won the Three Shadows Photography Award in 2010, which marked the starting point of his international career. In his two iconic series »Coastline« and »They«, he photographs ordinary people in their dail y life so as to depict the rapid development of modern Chinese society.
Jason Fulford (1973, based in the USA) is a photographer and designer who works on commissions for famous brands and magazines and publishes book s with his company »J&L Books«. He has adopted the photobook format as a primary mode of expression and develops all kinds of books, combining essays, illustrations and founded postcards with his own photographs. Recently, together with Tamara Shopsin, he designed a photobook for children, »This Equals That« (2014).
Jason Fulford nominated Zhang Xiao for this edition of PHOTOPAPER. It has 16 pages. Images above showing selected pages.