Fang Tong‘s photographs from ‘Love Illusion’ border on the surreal yet hold back enough to keep us firmly in the real world, her images provoking us into creating a narrative out of cinematic pictures.
Under normal circumstance I stay away from highly produced photo-shopped photographs but Tong doesn’t use digital techniques for the sake of it rather they are applied to stretch our universe, create an illusion, give her the tools to develop a storyline in the same way a dreamscape does; the imaginary world strangely familiar while the narrative arc takes us on a hyper-visual ride through our sub-consciousness. It’s this balance between the real and the surreal that pulls us into Tong’s world and in these photographs, of women and a child around a pool, she gives us a specific scenario while being utterly opaque. We know nothing of these characters, they swim, paddle, dive, hang out, yet do not connect. They are very much alone. Within themselves. Lost in thought.
This conceptual conceit, along with the application of light and colour, create an initial impression of paradise, a holiday, a tourist retreat, yet the longer we look the more we become unsettled. Something is askew. Wrong. The harmony we experienced on first sight washed away by a sense that these people are trapped in a prison of their own making. And while we are entranced by Tong’s beautiful photographs we are inherently aware of the emotional intent of each image.
The use of the photographic medium to express her relationship to the world about her is only the latest development in her artistic process – she came to photography through oil painting, sculpture, installation, digital media and 2D and 3D design – and I wouldn’t be surprised if this constant search for meaning will keep her exploring different modes of expression. Here’s what she has to say about her work:
I am very creative and conceptual freedom when shooting portraits. Cinema I like to call it. Want you to feel the same mood I try to capture in my photos. But I do not like the style entirely supernatural. Want everything that happens in my pictures are real, but there are still some elements a bit odd or strange happening …
For a long time, I have explored many aspects of traditional visual media and this has brought me great satisfaction. Gradually, I became intrigued with photography. Through the lens, it opens up a great world where I feel so much passion. I would like my work to look something in between realist and a little surreal. I want the viewer to feel the same mood that I try to put into my photo.