Zeng Nian

A VISION BETWEEN TRADITIONS AND MODERNITY

Compagnie Française de l’Orient et de la Chine often organize exhibits for artists, designers or photographers. The next exhibition would be dedicated to the French artist Zeng Nian’s black and white panoramic photographs in collaboration with the Emerige’s patronage. Sixteen photographs of Zeng Nian are shown on the House historical concept store’s window displays and also on spaces from two stages at 170 Boulevard Haussman boutique. This is a total immersion into the Chinese cultural and social realities which are constantly moving. The photographs are limited editions only eight or fifteen pieces are presented ; fourteen of them are widescreen images about 132 x 46 cm and two portraits of 64 x 140 cm. Zeng Nian shows his work for the first time in Paris. « Back to China : Here, I show you the world I have seen and men I have met » said the photographer.

BACK TO CHINA, ZENG NIAN PHOTOGRAPHS

Zeng Nian was born in 1954 in China’s Jiangsu province of Wuxi. In 1971 he was assigned in the administration port of Nankin as a sailor. In 1981 he took a professional break and cycle to Tibet for six months.

In 1985 Zeng Nian worked with Sipa Press. In 1994 he worked with Contact Press Images agency based in Paris. In 1996 he started his major work about the construction of the Three Gorges dam in China. He captured the valley and its historical treasures forever drowned into waters. In 2000 he joined Gamma agency.

His photographs and his reports are often published in prestigious French and Chinese magazines such as Paris Match, Le Figaro, Géo France and Germany but also International magazines such as New York Times magazines, The Independant, National Geographic Magazine… Zeng Nian won numerous awards such as the prestigious World Press Photo award in the Art Stories category.

Zeng Nian’s work gathers a photo-journalist’s testimonial with the beauty of the plastician photography. His photographs are full of nostalgia, always pragmatic and sometimes tough but always filled with the notion of respect for human rights and dignity. His photographs are similar to paintings indeed his father was a painting teacher at Beaux-Arts Institute of Nankin. Zeng Nian is very inspired by the chinese prints, by widescreen size which highlights vertical and horizontale lines of his work. He is also inspired by the Chinese landscape paintings.

The strength of the widescreen size and the depth of black and white colors altogether sublimate abstracts photographs, landscape photographs and portraits. Each photograph is the result of years of work of observation and shootings. Zeng Nian can take an amazing picture from a landscape or even from a steel structure. He can photograph forsaken metallic structure of the railway bridge in the Yunnan province as well as rice paddies from Jiabang’s terraces in the Guizhou Province or a monk meditating on the top of the sacred Jizu mountain in the Yunnan Province always with the same passion.

Zeng Nian shows Chinese socio-cultural realities which are evolving. He continuously shows everyday life scenes from his original country. He has also photographed the Three-Gorges dam for twenty years. Since 70 million of years, the Three-Gorges dam has been composed of three carved and narrowed ways, through the Daba mountain tops in which fall the very dangerous flows of the longest Chinese river. In 1994, the Chinese government decided to build the longest barrage of the world in that area. Even though this is now a technological achievement, a million and a half people have been displaced and cities and villages have been drowned into a 54 000 km² lake. The site has been changed for eternity.

Zeng Nian is living in France and got married with a French girl. Besides he has taken pictures of French landscapes and French monuments such as l’Arc de Triomphe, le Jardin des Tuileries, the arch of Cathedrale of Reims. Olive tree fields from Gordes en Provence or the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandie are his favourite themes.

He also draws incredible portraits with an original and unique technique. He said « For only one portrait I took many shots of different parts of the body. The photographs are then processed by computer. I use around 20 or 40 shots and each of them has their own focusing mechanism. I put them altogether to get the final result, the final image or portrait. (…) This technique is close to the vision we can have on everyday life things. We create a person’s image according what we can see, which look we put on their eyes, their wrinkles, their hairstyle, their clothes, position of their hands… Thus unconsciously we are building images in our head and for each of this short glance our eye is doing an ajustement focus ».

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