"Remember Me Like This", from the Family Photo Album Project
In “Aesthetics or Truth”, Tod Papageorge wrote about how photography’s transparent quality and the camera’s mimetic nature make most people look at photography differently from paintings, poetry, or films where fictional and subjective qualities are presumed. The lack of such presumptions when looking at photography make people easily fall into the trap of associating photography with truth. I fell into such trap a few years ago when I first discovered a large collection of old family photographs during a visit to my native country China. Having lived abroad for over twenty years, I held onto those photos as though they were the only tangible thing connecting me to my roots. Yet, the more I looked at them, the less reliable and satisfactory they became, and the more photographic artifice surfaced. Since then, my projects have developed around this collection of family photographs in which I examine the nature of the photographic medium, particularly that of the personal and family photographs in relation to history, memory and records.
In “Remember Me Like This,” I selected family photographs taken during China’s Cultural Revolution as starting point. I chose photos taken in this particular time frame because of the striking discrepancies between what the photographs depict on the surface–images of family bliss and youthful optimism, and memories of deprivation and feelings of bitterness invoked by these images. I reproduced these photographs and directly drew and painted on them using traditional painting and drawing materials and technique. Through this process, I seek to reveal their symbolic, archetypal and constructed qualities. They demand the viewers to see not with the presumptions of familiar family photographs but as constructed pictures, and to reflect on the question of what is it that we seek to fulfill in our personal and family photographic collection and memory?