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Photography (MA)

Zhi Gao

I live in Inner Mongolia, Northern China, where there are endless grasslands and Gobi deserts and clustered galloping horses and falcons. The unique living environment and images in my eyes have enabled me to ruminate and think over pictures and realism elements that I have seen since my childhood.

My university courses have laid a foundation for my photographic learning during my postgraduate period. I have formed my own academic comprehensions of photography from sketching colour and Visual Art Appreciation, to the Basics of Photography and the Technique of Film-making. Different from paintings, photography emphasises its objectivity at a radical level. In other words, photography is the primary form of this entity, which has gotten rid of time lapses. I begin to be obsessed in the research on the “Ontology of Photographing Images” proposed by André Bazin. His academic ideas provide theoretical guides for my photographic understanding. 

During the postgraduate period, my main research direction considers the relation between human will and the natural world. I’m interested in the “reconfigurability” caused by the natural world, the industrial society and human beings.

Driven by new technologies, photographic arts have experienced continuous changes, some photographic theoretical boundaries are disappearing and photography demonstrates an extremely plastic feature. In addition, photography possesses more exploratory features and theoretical extensions in many aspects, such as visual communication and artistic expressions.

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Photography (MA)

As an advanced function of humans, consciousness lets us know matter and reconstruct matter. However, it is the existence of matter that led humans to develop consciousness. There seems to be a paradox, or a so-called chaotic thought beyond human. It is human intelligence, consciousness and life, which seems advanced, that traps us in a narrow space. We rely too much on the mechanism of self-maturity to operate and change, only to find we are reduced to being our own slaves. We forget the basic duty of existence and primitive rules around us.

Considering the relationship between human consciousness and material existence, I make the contradiction between nature and modern society built by humans the theme for my photographs. The scenes were shot in my hometown, where natural environment and modern society coexist. I want to explore the reconstruction of land, trees, water, animals and other natural elements due to people’s participation, through which I hope to elaborate the profound influence of human behaviour to transform and control nature on nature. I realise the variation and fragmentation of nature under the appearance of safety and tranquillity, and a great unease of nature itself.

I wrote many articles and revised my arguments continuously during the shoot, trying to lead my mind deeper. Meanwhile, I also found out the problem I would first encounter in the future study of photographs—the immaturity of my artistic expression. Faced with various artistic approaches and corresponding theories, my choice now is tentative and blind to a large extent. For me, the right direction is to strengthen my study of photographic history and increase the practice of shooting. I will go deeper into finding out influences of different filming media.

Basic Form (Trees 1-3, Pine Forest)
Basic Form (Trees 2-3, Pine Branches)
Basic Form (Trees 3-3, Pine Stump)
Basic Form (Animals 1-2, Remains)
Basic Form (Animals 2-2, Ashes)
Basic Form (Artificial Objects 1-2, Bucket)
Basic Form (Artificial Objects 2-2, Recorder)

From the relationship between human consciousness and material existence, I framed the subject of photography as the circular relationship and contradiction between nature and the modern society constructed by humans.

I went back to the Mongolian countryside for surveying and shooting, where there is a purely natural environment, as well as a modern.

I want to discover the reorganization of many natural elements such as the earth, trees, water sources, and animals due to human participation. What I want to explain is the profound impact of transforming and controlling nature have on nature itself and humans themselves.

Is this the beginning of an alienation? Or is it the slow birth of a new form? I hope to continue this research through photography.

Medium:

Medium Format, Digital File, OCF Flash

Size:

52.5 x 52.5 cm
At Eternity's Gate
Exhibition

People come all the way.

They cut down trees for firewood, cultivated the land to produce food, slaughtered livestock to fill the stomach, and then repaid the land with leftovers and garbage.

People built walls to rule, but eventually imprisoned themselves.


Medium:

Large Format, Darkroom & Giclee Print

Size:

118 x 40 cm
1-6
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6-6

People come all the way.

They cut down trees for firewood, cultivated the land to produce food, slaughtered livestock to fill the stomach, and then repaid the land with leftovers and garbage.

People built walls to rule, but eventually imprisoned themselves.


Medium:

Video Tape Camera, Digital Print

Size:

40 x 25 cm