Starting September 9 through 11, Photo Shanghai 2016 will bring together the very best leading and emerging contemporary artists from across the art world. Among them, a Leica M6 avid user, photographer Ian Teh has published three monographs, Undercurrents (2008), Traces (2011) and Confluence (2014). His work is part of the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the Hood Museum in the USA. Selected solo shows include the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York in 2004, Flowers in London in 2011 and the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam in 2012. Teh’s work has been published internationally in distinguished magazines such as Time, The New Yorker, GEO and Granta. Teh is a member of the prestigious agency, VU. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his participation at the event and an overview of his work.
Can you please describe what the work you are showcasing represents?
I find borders fascinating, particularly the borders of China, Russia and North Korea where histories and political ideologies overlap. Not so long ago, these nation states were all Communist. My interest was not to document or comment per se, but to immerse and experience for myself the pulse and atmosphere of a place that was obviously influenced by these three bordering cultures. The mood that I felt, was what I tried to express.
Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self taught. Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
I was self taught for the most part. I learnt some technical aspects of photography in my university, where there was an introduction class to photography. But most of my creative knowledge and development was self taught and learnt through conversations with peers whom I respected.
What genre are your photos?
It has its early roots in street photography and photojournalism, but it has since evolved to have a much wider perspective. Now my personal work has a conceptual element to it, but its objective is always in the realm of documentary.
What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
Photography for me is about authorship, a means to express yourself in an as eloquent a way as possible because of one’s dedication to the nuances of this visual language. Its simplicity and its directness removes barriers, what is left is a direct connection with the viewer where emotions can arise from the skill of the photographer. Its like writing, except its different.
You talk about the sense of “authorship” photography gives you, what’s your perception between shooting film versus digital and the relation to “authorship”?
Authorship lies within the photographer who chooses what and how he expresses himself. Digital and film plays only a small role in the creative decision making process. What is important is that the picture taking process should be an expression of an idea, and that the sequencing and development of these little ideas lead to a complete series that is an expression of an overall vision by the photographer.
The images you share depict an average day in the lives of Chinese people. What was your creative objective when selecting these subjects?
Thank you Ian!