For each of the last three years, the third-year students in the Photography MFA program have traveled to Pingyao, China for the Pingyao International Photography festival. This year, four of us elected to go. Here’s what we did:
We were scheduled to leave on the 12th of September and would return on the 24th. Our first stop was Beijing. Beijing was not so much part of the festival as something fun to do as part of the trip. We were there for only three days, but while we were there, we visited a few shows, went to the arts district, and hit up the Great Wall.
After our short stay in Beijing, it was time to catch a 45min flight to Tiyuan, and from there it was a 90min drive to the walled city of Pingyao. The city itself was not what I was expecting. I had been told that it was a very old walled city, but I had envisioned dirt walls or something in shambles. But instead, it had massive brick walls, all still intact, with huge gates.
When we arrived, we went and checked out the space we had been given to hang our work. Our space was in a building designated C3, and was located in an old diesel engine factory. The space was also being used as the main lecture hall, so it would be getting a lot of traffic over the life of the festival. The problem was that the walls were brick, which is fairly difficult to hang work to.
We held off on hanging until the next day. At that time, we had to make do with the available options. One of those options was to nail foam core to the walls and pin/tape the work up. We spent most of the day working on that. When it was done, for what it was, the space looked pretty good, even though we were not allowed to remove the large painting of Mao from the room.
The next day was the opening of the festival. The opening was one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed. It was filled with long speeches (in chinese of course) and several Chinese pop stars. It was crazy. Then the festival was open, and it was flooded with people. So. Many. People.
The next day was the first of two lectures we were participating in. This one was taught by the Columbia Studio Manager, Tom Nowak. He was giving a demo on how to light a portrait. It lasted about an hour, and he used a number of students from the audience as models. It seemed to go over quite well.
That evening we (the four students) were giving lectures about our own work. We gave those lectures along with lectures by Parsons and NTU, a newer college from Singapore. I have to say, the students from Singapore, who we would meet up with the next night, were really, really impressive. They were only BFA students but the work was at a much higher level than that.
The next day was our last scheduled obligation, another lecture. This time the lecture was being given by Ross Sawyers, one of our seminar instructors. He was giving a lecture on Constructed Imagery. After he was finished talking about what exactly that meant, we broke the students up into four groups and each one of us grad students took a group and an example image and worked with the students to recreate the image.
More to Come…