Backdrops and Backdrops.
Photographs by Xu Yong. Edited by He Hao. Interviews by Britta Erickson, Pi Li.
Timezone 8, Beijing, 2007. 236 pp., 60 color illustrations, 9½x9".
The work that first brought the contemporary Chinese photographer Xu Yong to the attention of the international art world was 101 Hutong Portraits, a book-length collection of traditional Beijing street scenes. In Backdrop, Xu Yong collects two bodies of 'souvenir' photographs-one taken in Tiananmen Square and the other in front of Shanghai's super-modern Oriental Pearl Tower. Because of the way that Xu Yong lights and frames his photographs, at first glance one can hardly tell if the cultural landmark in the background of each picture is an actual architectural monument or a backdrop screen from a commercial photography studio. Indeed the settings are real. And the people that this rising star captures-including children, teenagers, young sweethearts, married couples, mothers and sons, middle-aged tourists, multi-generational families and groups-offer riveting psychological and sociological studies of modern Chinese culture. Often enigmatic, they have a rare, magnetic pull that keeps you looking.
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