• Niu Guozheng Photography Exhibition
    Artist: Niu Guozheng
    Essay: Gu Zheng
    Opening: 2008.09.13 / 16:00
    Duration: 2008.09.13 - 2008.10.10 / 10:00 - 18:00
    Venue: OFOTO Gallery. 2F, Building 13, 50 Moganshan Rd., Shanghai

    Niu Guozheng’s Photography
    by Gu Zheng
    The photographer Niu Guozheng originates from Henan province in central China. This province enjoys a rich cultural and anthropological tradition within which contemporary photography may be described as the latest mode. Critics have stated that Henan is the greatest province of photography in China. It is certain that this province provides an assembly point for the majority of China"s outstanding contemporary photographers in Henan. Amongst these, Niu Guozheng is indubitably the best.
    Niu Guozheng differs from the majority of China"s professional photographic artists. His central concerns and the basis of his practice derive from his homeland, which is quietly observed and recorded in its entirety, with the aid of a hand-held camera. However, within his own experience, Niu Guozheng is no stranger to the extraordinary. Through Niu Guozheng" s vision, the extraordinary nature of our everyday life emerges. The concept of abnormality is negated and criticized and that of normality thrown into doubt. Consequently, although he applies an unaffected style of documentary photography to his subjects, his works are highly sophisticated. These images simultaneously document scenes of a peculiar nature and demonstrate an outstanding expressionist style. He has always worked to express his own notion of reality and life from his own unique perspective.
    Once given the opportunity to view a more complete reflection of Niu Guozheng"s photography practice on compact disc, I discovered a significant body of work that has been developing over a long period of time. The subject-matter includes reference to the effects of development and temporality, for example, environmental pollution. However, Niu Guozheng does not seek to interrogate the mechanizations of an entire epoch, he rather resolutely approaches his own subjects. During this progress, he constantly seeks to intensify his ability to conceptualize and to perfect his technique. This practice may be related to his choice of lifestyle and profession. As an amateur photographer, he is not restrained by the influence of popular styles and subjects or the need to complete a project. Like a wine brewer, he gradually strengthens his expertise. Consequently, each series is carefully refined thus demonstrating a remarkable length of experience and depth of insight. The "final product", untarnished by the crude desire to "get rich quick", encourages in each viewer the aspiration to understand humanity better. In my opinion, to avoid the final confrontation with a sense of inadequacy and regret, professional photographic artists would do well to follow Niu Guozheng"s example.
    Niu Guozheng"s confined living conditions have never resulted in a narrow perspective. On the contrary, his works manifest an unbounded respect and profound understanding of humanity. The breadth and open-mindedness in his compositions emerges in a kind of open atmosphere. He is respected for both championing the representation of reality, despite the unsettling nature of the reality with which he is confronted. Whether working with the young and old miners struggling to make a living or ordinary people sleeping out in the open in all seasons, Niu Guozheng regards his subjects with the same respect and fellowship as his own family. He is a sincere photographer with his own ideas and standpoint. His images become inscriptions of both the extraordinary and every-day experiences of the ordinary people with whom he shares the land. Although reality is often oppressive and extraordinary experiences have been devalued, he continues to work to capture the original emotions and sensations he encounters and to integrate both poetry and documentary in his images. This poetry of image cannot be dismissed as superficially pleasing or cheap in sentiment. It is both searing and unpolished and refuses to surrender its humanitarian sentiment or aesthetic quality for one moment.