Liu Zheng, ‘Folk Entertainer, Lingqiu, Shanxi Province’, 1995, Blindspot Gallery

About Liu Zheng

Liu Zheng became interested in the narrative and romantic potential of photography during his early career as a photojournalist for the Chinese newspaper The Workers’ Daily. Liu, who was deeply influenced by the work of Diane Arbus and August Sander, quit his job and traveled throughout China for eight years to take portraits of what he considered archetypal Chinese figures, including convicts, Peking Opera singers, monks, and even corpses. This collection would become Liu’s best known work, titled “The Chinese” (1994-2002) in reference to Robert Frank’s “The Americans” (1958). Though his Chinese audience initially responded with indignation to Liu’s grim depictions, the artist explains his practice as non-critical, saying, “for me, the operative word is ‘studying’.” Following “The Chinese,” Liu has produced works expanding on themes of identity in Chinese culture, including a series of 40 monochrome portraits titled “Dream Shock” (2009).

Chinese, b. 1969