The Overseas Photographer Award
Reason for award
For his works such as “1m, The Scenery Behind Me” (1989), “I am a dog.” (1996) and his accomplishments as a photographer.
Born in Tibet, China in 1958. Gave up his career as a professional soccer player. In 1982, he encountered a camera and decided to create a world in which he expresses himself freely through photography, like in literature or paintings. Made his debut with his solo exhibition “Father” (large-scale salon exhibition at Tianjin museum). He distanced himself from the strength and gentleness of his father’s generation, depicted in the art world at the time, and showed a new perspective by expressing the complexity of human nature, including awkwardness and distortion. “1m, The Scenery Behind Me” (Tianjin City Central Park Exhibition Hall), presented at the group exhibition in 1989, was born from his performance art where he hung his camera behind his neck and focused it backward, taking pictures every five steps. The depression and isolation of the people before the Tiananmen Square Incident are shown in the pictures. Unfortunately, the pictures were removed from the venue only two days after the beginning of the exhibition. In his “Dog’s eye” presented in Popular Photography in 1995, he attached his camera with a mortar to the tripod, carrying it upside down, with a release in his other hand, shooting pictures without using the finder while walking down the streets. His works were misunderstood as “the world from a dog’s point of view”, so he changed the title to “I am a dog.” The idea that people who can’t articulate their opinions are the same as animals, so they don’t need to see the world led to the use of this method. In his 1997 work, “Red flash-Me in my scenery“, “Red flash-Takako’s red skirt-Walking in Beijing“ in 2004, and the 2011 solo exhibition “Landscape mixed with red”( Zen Foto Gallery, Tokyo) , he presented a collection of works which are dyed red, showing the world reached by the illumination of the flash, using a red plastic board. His works consider the psychological relationship between the color red, which has a specific meaning in China, the government, or time period and the connection with the people. In addition to the medium of photography, he continues to create works that question the nature of the individual, society, and the nation as a photographer.
News of me winning this award came very suddenly. In China, it is impossible for me to receive such an award. Recently in China, photography that emphasizes style with a contemporary art-like accent is well-favored.
But I’m not surprised. My work has had an important role by pioneering endeavors in the field of photography. Before 2000, besides me, artists who made photographs that had experimental post-modern art concepts and reflected contemporary China did not exist.
On this occasion, I was very happy in the beginning to be able to meet Mr. Gao Yan, a photographer and researcher born in the 80s. He described the spiritual meaning of my photography as “provoke”. To me, he is a true friend that goes beyond age generations. I’m very happy to be nominated by him.
There is more happy news. As the jurors for the Higashikawa Awards do not reside in China, it’s not expected that they would know about the current situation in the country, but I hope they can catch a glimpse through my work. I believe my photography can convey ideas that go beyond geographical parameters and narration within the historical context of photography. Documentary photography as a method is not about expressing narration but conveying shared emotions and spirituality of people.
To be recognized by friends different in ethnicity and nationality is the greatest gift and encouragement for me. I am full of gratitude.
Mo Yi, April 11, 2021