“On my thirtieth birthday, my wife left me,” Rafael Mantesso said. She took her cookware, furniture, photos, her decorations. She left me alone in an empty all-white apartment. The only thing she didn’t take was my bull terrier, whom she’d named after her favorite shoe designer: Jimmy Choo,” Rafael said.
‘There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.’
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
1. Oh HAI! Prepare to die.
“He was training to be a surgeon when we got married. One night he came home from two days straight on the job, and I’d cooked him dinner. Right before he fell asleep in his plate of food, he asked me what movie I’d like to watch. I thought it was so sweet.”
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…