From a distance, the works in Zhang Bojun’s (张博钧) We series are attractive plaid pointillistic patterns, but something in them hints there is something more to be seen and draws you in to take a closer look.
One you get closer, you realize each pattern is a mosaics of thousands of photos of people!
In the We series (now showing at the OFOTO gallery in Shanghai’s M50 art complex), the people are photographed from the same bird’s eye angle, categorized according to color and painstakingly photoshopped into the frame to form lovely patterns. If you look closely enough the people retain their individuality—individual faces can be recognized. Over there a hand holds up a water bottle, and there—a man pulls a large pink suitcase behind him. A few stripes of people above him, a man sporting a wild attempt at a comb-over and with a cigarette dangling from his lips strides purposefully through the red-clad crowd. Each person is at once part of the whole pattern (put there though a combination of chance and design) and an individual, one with private motives and private thoughts.
Most of the people photographed were just going about their daily routines. Life can be awfully repetitive, and this aspect of life is reflected in the process of creating the artwork. The original photos were taken over a period of seven years, and the image of each person was isolated, catalogued and then inserted almost seamlessly into a pattern.
Discussing how he came upon his inspiration for the series, Zhang writes of his experiences taking photos of commuters and travellers:
After I transfer thousands of hundreds pictures I took everyday to computer, I notice that these crowds in big density are just like ants, and I am one among them, too tiny to neglect. I hence start to bring this sensation to the trajectory of my work creation, I started to separate people’s figure from photos, removed and match up them, which totally changed the initial motivation of taking their pictures. (Read the full article at OFOTO gallery: Everyone is a Mirror of Mine)
We go about our life, repeating the same actions. Some times our actions are governed by routine, sometimes by chance and sometimes by forces outside our control. What then does it all mean?
Zhang Bojun’s conceptual photography isn’t merely about repetition, isn’t merely about process.
Look closely enough, and we are all individuals; each one of us is unique. Pull back a little and we become anonymous, lost in a sea of faces. Pull back a little more and perhaps something beautiful emerges—a sense that our life is part of a greater pattern, a greater purpose, a greater beauty.
Visit Zhang Bojun’s page at Otomo Gallery
Find higher resolution images(2048 x 135) of the above photos in my Flickr album: Conceptual Photography.
~by Stephen Richards (longzijun)
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