Zhang Hai’er


Zhang Hai’er
b. 1957, Guangzhou
Photographer
Zhang Hai’er began his artistic career in 1978 as a student of stage design at the Shanghai Drama Institute. He then worked as an art director and set designer for the Guangdong Television Network before deciding to continue his education in photography at the Guangzhou College of Fine Arts. Zhang Hai’er has photographed numerous subjects throughout his career, most often in his native Guangzhou, but also as far away as Denmark and Africa. His coal-miner series and beauty-pageant work show not only his journalistic vigour but also his artistic bent. His signature expressionistic style is accentuated by a preference for the wide-angle lens and high-contrast prints which help to portray his subjects in an often glamorized or theatrical manner.
Some of his earliest work had its solo debut in 1988 at the Provincial Library of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, from where it travelled to Germany (‘Fotografien Aus China: 1986–1989’). His series of Guangzhou prostitutes is perhaps his best-known and most widely exhibited work. Using call-girls as models, Zhang poses his subjects in a manner akin to fashion photography. The girls, in various states of undress, stare unassumingly at the camera as if in a dream state. Zhang Hai’er also works as a photo journalist and fashion photographer for Agence Vu (Paris). He splits his time between Guangzhou and Paris. His work has been featured in ‘China—Fifty Years in the People’s Republic’ (Aperture Foundation, New York, 2000), ‘Zhang Hai’er—Solo Exhibition’ (Image Photo Gallery, Aarhus, Denmark) and ‘Contemporary Photo Art from the People’s Republic of China’ (Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin and other venues in Germany).
Clark, John and van Dijk, Hans (1999). Modern Chinese Art Foundation (exhibition catalogue). Netherlands: Provincieraad Oost-Vlaanderen, 82–5.
Kunz, André (1994) ‘Contemporary Chinese Photography: From a “Correct” to a “Fragmentary” World View’. In Jochen Noth, Wolfger Puhlmann, Kai Reschke and Andreas Schmid (eds) (1994), China Avant-Garde: Counter-Currents in Art and Culture. Berlin and Hong Kong: Haus der Kulturen der Welt and Oxford University Press, 93–100.
MATHIEU BORYSEVICZ

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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