Shanghai-based artist Maleonn (aka Ma Liang) has travelled around 25 Chinese provinces, photographing 200,000 people in a mobile photo studio.
It took him seven months to prepare for the project, which included painting the sets and backgrounds, preparing costumes, purchasing a truck, and arranging locations – and collecting old photographs, papers, posters, certificates, letters, receipts and notebooks for props.
Over a period of 10 months, in a battered truck and a minivan, Maleonn visited 35 cities in China, taking 1,600 portraits of people in fancy/fantasy dress.
He established a set of guidelines, such as a minimum of eight people per city who would provide him and his team with food, somewhere to stay and a space to work.
The subjects dressed either in clothes from Maleonn’s van or brought their own outfits. Subjects ranged from tank drivers and police officers to Tang dynasty scholars. People from all walks of life turned up to be photographed.
Maleonn launched the project after losing his studio in Shanghai’s Weihai Road 696 arts community, following a government eviction of artists, and getting divorced. Having completed the huge project in China, Maleonn suggested he might next be taking the roadshow to the UK. ‘I have friends in Swansea,’ he said.
Here are some more examples of Maleonn’s work which melds photography and theatre with remarkable results…
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What fun! The absolute antithesis of the spontaneous snapshot…
Characters and incidents from ordinary life, from our immediate surroundings, being familiar, strike us as more or less natural. Alienating them helps to make them seem remarkable to us.
Science has carefully developed a technique of getting irritated with the everyday, ‘self-evident’, universally accepted occurrence, and there is no reason why this infinitely useful attitude should not be taken over by art.
I really enjoy the humour and impact provided by the outlandishly theatrical elements in Maleonn’s images…
Have you ever experimented with constructed tableaux like these in your photography? Do tell!