Noted photographer creates masterworks in black and white
By Ruby Gao
Famous Shanghai photographer Yao Keng’s latest exhibition features black and white images of bare branches against the sky and historic buildings and street scenes in downtown Shanghai.
The solo exhibition “View at My Homeland” contains 47 works created over more than three years.
“Most of the photos are taken in the former French concession except a few taken near the Bund and the M50 art district near Moganshan Road, where I have my studio,” Yao says.
Yao expresses his perspective on Shanghai by composing geometric scenes of architecture, streets and trees, representing a combination of the East and the West, filled with harmony and tension.
Most of the architecture in the former concession is built in the classical Western style, including Art Deco and minimalism, he says.
“Trees are among the most popular themes in traditional Chinese painting,” Yao says. “I particularly shoot trees in early spring, when the leaves are still gone, exposing the mottled bark of the trunk. To some extent, this symbolizes the way the Chinese seldom show their unrestrained personality.”
By using an infrared filter, he produces crisp black and white images expressing a sense of purity and tranquillity. “I hope to present a hidden side of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai — peace and quiet,” Yao says. “From Yao’s photos I don’t READ but SEE peace and a kind of emotional coolness,” says Wang Lei, a painter who trained in France.
One photo depicts an aircraft soaring upward like a shooting star in the distance, leaving a long vertical contrail. It’s seen behind an intricate laticework of bare branches, which contrasts sharply with the bright, straight contrail.
“As a photographer good at shooting landscapes, I found there’s no place but my hometown Shanghai that deeply and powerfully touches my heart,” the photographer says.
Yao plans to launch a series of photo exhibitions about Shanghai in the near future.
The 59-year-old photographer is a guest professor at the China Academy of Art and a member of the Shanghai Photographers Association.