A fundamental aspect of SCoP’s mission is to showcase the work of China’s leading photographers; to afford an opportunity to see a wide survey of their work in one place. Zhang Haier is a well-known figure in photography in China, recognized for a steadfast devotion to style and content which has evolved through a thirty-year career that began in the mid-1980s. Previously, his body of work has been seen only in fragmented fashion. Now, the exhibition “MUSE” brings together familiar and previously unseen examples of work that spans Zhang Haier’s career. The selection begins from his primary sources of inspiration – women, yes, but family members initially not strangers – and is focused on the major themes that emerged.
Zhang Haier is one of China’s most experienced and progressive photographers. In 1985, he entered Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art to pursue a masters’ degree in painting where, in spite of the disparagement he received, Zhang Haier began to evolve a highly personal exploration of photography. This resulted in a singular “vision of the world through a lens”, in which darkness is a conscious visual code: the defining characteristic of Zhang Haier’s work.
As the title of this exhibition, “MUSE” refers as much to place as to a single person or series of individuals: as much to Guangzhou as to Paris, as to his wife of 35 years, Hu Yuanli, as to the myriad personalities upon which he has turned his camera since the late-1980s. Hu Yuanli is the women who remains central to his work, as his most enduring and intimate Muse. The photographs selected for “MUSE” explore their experiments with portraiture: the male photographer celebrating the female figure, her femininity, and the natural allure is captured.
Through 35 years, Zhang Haier has continued his exploration of the subject of women and other forms of feminine identity. These works share a common assertion of self, with a force of emotion that alternates between joy, pain, delight and sorrow. Zhang Haier’s work speaks of real people in their natural states.