Yan Ming‘s photographs from ‘Country Of Ambition’ give us a wry view of China, his pictures hinting at both the industrialisation of the country, the growing urban rural divide and the capacity of the Chinese people to rise above this unprecedented transformation in their lives with fatalism and a ready humour writ large on their faces.
Ming is forging his own path. While many Chinese photographers look at the social, economic and political conditions of modern China Ming chooses to focus in on ordinary people going about their everyday lives. His ability to compose pictures that are layered with multiple meanings, rich narratives and stories tell us something profound about Chinese culture and the sheer weight and breadth of its history and traditions.
There is a calmness in these delightful black and white pictures, as if Ming is looking to slow us down and view his world in a serene light, with a clarity of vision and an open mind that is willing to recognise that China is different, that its aesthetic belongs to its people, is deeply rooted in its past and cannot be diluted by Western trends and fashions and idioms. Here’s what he had to say about his photographs in an interview with Camera Obscura:
My work is an experience; where I am unrestrained as I observe and watch. I am unrestrained, and I do not imprison myself with restrictions. As long as I can get to it, the location of my photo shoots is any place in China. I’m willing to be just a labourer as I photograph the worlds that I love best- ordinary people and the natural world. I want to calmly look upon this ever-changing era with modern eyes.
I hope that I can always retain sincerity and that I will work with purity and trueness. While others fear that their work is not western or trendy, I worry that my work is not Chinese or classical. China’s unique culture, history, nature, and the persevering spirit that I inherited from my ancestors has shaped my style of photography. It has led me to feel what changes and what doesn’t.
There are over 80 photographs in this series and I strongly urge you to have a look at every single one of them.