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Lessons Learned in One Day, Sanya (2007) (2007) by CHEN Chun Lin
180 x 200 cm

Edition of 3

Chen Chun Lin
We get acquainted and interact with thousands of individual objects in our world thanks to their appearance or image. People have an image, objects have an image, even society has a face, which we can observe by looking at people. The ability of photography to capture images made it an obvious choice for me to use as a medium of expression for this project.

Back in 2003, after having spent an entire day taking portraits in a wide lane in Chengdu, I decided to name this series "Lessons Learned in One Day". My intention with this work was to analyze modern society through photographs taken in one-day’s work. One day might seem short, but inspired by the Buddhist belief behind William Blake’s poem A Grain Of Sand ("To see a world in a grain of sand, / And heaven in a wild flower, I thought that one day of photographing will hold both certainties and coincidences.

Later, curiosity urged me to expand my plan. I was not satisfied anymore with observing only the city I lived in: I wanted to see the changing China. I went to big cities, villages, ethnic minority areas, and border towns, I would look for a place with crowds and a strong taste of life, and I would photograph people from dawn until sunset. I used a white background to drag the subjects out of their reality, for better "observation", while using the same measurement allowed for "comparison". Throughout the entire process, I didn’t let my subjectivity get involved - I just wanted to capture people from all walks of life and identities in their natural state in front of the camera against the same background. I don’t know what impression the subjects will make on the viewers, since different experiences will result in different interpretations; what matters to me most is the communication exchange with the people, which becomes part of my personal experience and enriches my life.

As I increased the number of shooting locations and people for this series, extending my trips all through China, from east to west and from city centers to the countryside, the whole project expanded and became more than just "one day". Therefore, I changed the name to "Image". In Chinese, the character 相, "image", has multiple layers of meaning: appearance and looks, face, manner, exterior of an object, observation, estimation, and interaction, which are all the elements and significations I want my photographs to convey to the viewers.
-Chen Chunlin
Chengdu, May 2008


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