Chen Changfen Photographs The Great Wall Of China; One Subject, Ever Changing Page 2

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Many sections of the Wall that Changfen has documented over the years no longer look the same. There are views such as one older, more dilapidated section where they have surrounded it by fencing, making the view he photographed different. Other sections have been restored and changed. However, Changfen's tremendous commitment is to an idea, a kind of personal project as well as a worn preservation of history.

Niujijiaobian, Beijing, 1989
Inkjet photograph on rice paper. Collection of the Artist.

Each image has its roots in Chinese art. Things disappear into the distance, so characteristic of the Chinese way of depicting space and creating what is commonly referred to as a "void," where there is little or no detail.

Changfen's images, many of which are 6-foot long panoramas, are printed on rice paper that has been used over the years for Chinese paintings and printmaking. He has used a variety of camera formats and technical processes over time and is using his Epson inkjet printer in the studio. Working with his son, the rice paper he uses is specially made heavier for him in order to have the absorption right and to ensure that the soft surface paper doesn't crease during the printing process. The pictures are high detail but just by the nature of the way ink soaks into this rice paper the details are much softer, offering a painterly look to the photograph.

Yingfeidaoyang, Beijing, 1990
Inkjet photograph on rice paper. Collection of the Artist.

Changfen's studio with its complete state-of-the-art equipment is traditional in style and, with the help of his son, all of his color and black and white printing is done in the studio.

Changfen is by no means simply documenting architectural ruins. "Over the past 10 or 12 years," Tucker says, "he has achieved the most beautiful and mature work of the project. It is more complex in some ways and yet appears simpler. Also, it is more personal and less documentary. He better understands what to photograph and how to photograph the Wall, making the series even deeper."

In August 1989, Chen Changfen was chosen by "TIME" as among the 10 noted photographers in the past 150 years of photography. He is also a permanent member of The Association of Chinese Photographers.

Youlouling, Jiankou, Beijing, 2004
Gelatin silver photograph. Collection of the Artist.

During the '80s Changfen's reputation as a photographer rose dramatically and his work was exhibited at the Chen Changfen Photographic Art Exposition at the prestigious China Art Gallery in Beijing, '87. Other major exhibitions followed and he was chosen as The Best Professional Photographer at the Swiss Graphic Photos '85 for a cover photo of the mountains. Many accolades have followed and his work is now widely exhibited.

A selection of Changfen's work will be on exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston from April 1st through August 12th.

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