White Night

by Feng Li

This content is provided in association with Photography of China, a curatorial platform offering an alternative vision of China and its history through an inspiring variety of photographic languages.

Originally from Chengdu in Sichuan Province, Feng Li 冯立 (born in 1971 in Chengdu) practices photography both as a civil servant for the provincial Department of Communication as an independent. In fact, he constantly gravitates between official imagery and his personal work, which is at complete odds with the propaganda he’s crafting for living. (…)

The spectacle of today’s China, a vast and surreal construction site where a hypertrophied version of modernity is being played every day both in cities and in the countryside, indeed offers an inexhaustible material for a prowler like Feng Li. Once assigned to cover a lighting festival in a deserted suburb of Chengdu, Feng Li was struck by the spooky atmosphere of giant shining structures displayed in the mist and decided to label his entire work as White Night. In fact, in China, nights are not completely black, LED lights sparkle, karaokes blink while the lights of the building sites persist until dawn enveloping everything in a permanent twilight. In this intermediate dimension, unusual characters abound, and it is this spectral universe that Feng Li captures in the twilight with the hot white of his flash.

The photos of Feng Li are like a series of fortuitous encounters with an unlikely cast of reality. This is the reality of Chengdu, with its shopping streets, parks and restaurants. Indeed, it is in this proximity rather than in the otherness of distant journeys that Feng Li feels at ease. The “decisive moment” hardly worries him and it is almost despite this that a strange fauna comes to stick to his lens like insects attracted by the glow of a car’s headlight. Feng Li only focuses on everyday life and effortlessly reveals the most unusual scenes of the great spectacle of the everyday. Starlets in miniskirts, old ladies in faux fur, wandering homeless people and colourful parrots, Feng Li pines up singular characters who in their own way play a role in the great fiction of ordinary life. Since 2005, may he be photographing a sedative congress or moving freely into the weekend crowd, Feng Li constantly nourishes his single, unique and plethoric series White Night.

To echo such an opulent collection of human specimens ˗ wet cats and strange looking children ˗ Feng Li made sound recordings in various places of Chengdu. Greasy outdoor speakers, senior aerobics, street vendors howling, all these sonic sceneries are translated and restored between the walls of the Parisian space. While combining information, emotional and sensitive dimensions we hope you will plunge into the realm of White Night.

words by Thomas Sauvin & Léo de Boisgisson