Raised by Water
Dates2015 - Ongoing
- Location Hangzhou
Four years of foreign life. Four years away from my family. I am able to look back at my grandmother and parents as if I was an outsider, and they seem strangers to me.
Four years of foreign life. Four years away from my family. I am able to look back at my grandmother and parents as if I was an outsider, and they seem strangers to me. In order to peek through the gossamer, which is in between my family and me, I set up semi-theatrical scenes by asking my family to act out who they are to me, in the process magnifying what’s real, less aware, and possibly invisible for them. I knew there might be “answers” on the other side, yet I did not have the guts to envisage them because I was afraid of making direct eye contact. In other words, we are becoming the most familiar strangers.
Since I am the only son of an only son, I am aware that the family barely has a man, and there is a tradition of the man being lifted to the top of the family structure. In my photographs, there is something missing in the man’s role; he is sometimes manly, or sometimes childish. On the other hand, the women are quieter, and aware of the atmosphere in this tiny family. As my grandmother still raises her children (including her daughter-in-law, my mother), she is the matriarch, and the complicated power dynamics over this role between two women is evident. The chemistry is wired. The elder seems to be most present, while the couple lacks self-consciousness. These three persons end up being isolated from one another, and also from me, the photographer. It is striking to see from the photographs that the only times that all family members are together, are in family events like visiting ancestors’ graves, or waiting for me to make a family portrait.
There is one scene where this person is resting behind a bed sheet, only showing the body partially. Behind the glowing fabric, there is a strong will and a tough soul, which is projected back onto the flowers, seen as the shifted shadow. For me, I am trying to unfold the two-sided personalities and the heavy responsibilities of a solitary hero.