• HEART STEPS - Luo Yongjin Photography Exhibition
    Artist: Luo Yongjin
    Essay: Chen Haiyan
    Opening: 2013.09.21 / 16:00
    Duration: 2013.09.21 - 2013.11.18 / 10:00 - 18:00
    Venue: OFOTO Gallery. 2F, Building 13, 50 Moganshan Rd., Shanghai

    Preface: Everyone, a visitor, the flowers be the hosts.

    -    Zhang Fang

    Heart Steps
    by Chen Haiyan


    Japanese photography critic Ina Nobuo says in Return to Photography: “Writing essays about photography aesthetics is a charming and pleasant thing. The title is bright, artistic and modern – not exhausting like the old Art. Photography has no long history, no tradition to insist on, no tragedy to forget about and no past to make the future dark.”

    The works of this exhibition are the traces Luo Yongjin is searching, thinking and demanding while wandering all over the country. This is the heart steps. I also wrote this essay during a travel, trying to feel his heart steps and write my heart steps when looking at his works, which is charming and pleasant to me.

    Traveling, to some people, is a pastime to enrich life, a way to avoid the formulated life, or a process of self-exile. Whatever the purpose is, “on the road” is a kind of true or real life, stepping the length and range of life into some remote places. The American author Jack Kerouac who wrote the novel “On the Road”,  spent seven years on the road but this spirit of “the beat generation” after the Second World War only spent three weeks on this spiritual autobiography. It becomes the enduring Bible for the rebels and protestors. After this “dizzying story of travel” published in 1957, hundreds of millions of jeans and millions of coffee machines were sold in America, inspiring many young people to wander on the road. They, with alienation, discontent and anxiety, tired of “the street with no branches”, explored a sinuate way out through travels. Today’s western youth, unlike the people in the old days, spend one year before going to college or after graduation travelling or doing voluntary work, which almost becomes the popular coming-of-age ceremony among western students. Such year has an exclusive name “Gap year”. To Luo Yongjin who was born in 1960, travel is not intended gap but a normal way of life and a conscious engagement with the nature. In his definition, travel is not the Grand tour of western students – he has already long past the period of lost youth, and not the extensive wandering of Xu Xiake – he never thinks of himself of a Taoist hermit, but a trip of calm observation and reflection. He cuts a slice of time with his lens through stream of consciousness, professional sensitivity and experiences accumulated over the years, chasing and presenting the heart steps. Being intimate with the world, cloudy or sunny, day or night, he consistently observes the things around. He persistently records in black and white the images onto the film and grasps light, shadow and time, wandering while discovering with respect and awe, expecting the improvisation and surprise, exchanging time for space or vice versa.

    “Heart Steps” almost includes all techniques, expression, styles and characteristics of Luo Yongjin. The macroaxis of panorama camera, the sentiment of 120 camera and the reconstruction of buildings are the typical symbol of Luo style. Sichuan, Yunnan, Shanxi, Jiangxi, Guizhou and Shanghai …These sceneries of different places of China have a strong nostalgia from the bottom of heart through his unique view and expressions. However, this nostalgia is not sad and suffocative but has a calm, tranquil and poetic power, still and clear, like a wind from nowhere that blows our gushing and sentimental mind away.

    Luo Yongjin fills his camera with “bullets” and carries his aged heavy black backpack like a mollusk wearing a snail shell. He, living a simple life but tirelessly in high and vigorous spirits, travels all around over mountains and waters, following the heart steps. Jorge Luis Borges mentioned: “Although life is made up of thousands of hours and days, which may be shortened to one day when we know and face ourselves.” I feel somehow delighted when confronted with such words. It coincides with Milan Kundera’s words: “Yes, if you are looking for infinity, all you need is to close your eyes!” But for Luo Yongjin, he opens his eyes for infinity, wandering slowly and recording all his heart steps by the third eye of camera.

    Translation: Fan Chen