Arts Abroad: Digital Photography Residency in Shanghai

July 27, 2010

One in a series of occasional dispatches from SVA’s Summer Arts Abroad programs. This dispatch was sent by student Tommy Kha.

Paris of the East, Oriental Paris, Shēn, Above Sea, On Sea, Pearl of the Orient…Shanghai seems to embody all of the connotations bestowed upon it. This is one reason why the city is relatable to me in my photographic work: it is the embodiment of different aspects perceived by others. Much of my work is not necessarily about personal psychology through self-portraits, but about ownership.

As a Chinese-American, coming to Shanghai has been a significant experience for me as I am the first person in my family to return to China since the late 1930s. The perception of me by other native Chinese has been, in a way, repressive. Many choose not to believe there can be a Chinese person who is from America. Some would prefer to make up their own assumptions, such as believing I could be from Japan or Hong Kong.

While here, I have been shooting images using both film and digital photographic media; I have also been working on a video using digital photography to capture images of myself in different environments. The digital photographs are stills, which attempt to survey transitions between time and topographies, and I hope to finish the video back in my hometown of Memphis, TN.

There is a text-based installation at the Island6 Arts Center here in Shanghai that I believe has it right: ‘Shanghai is the future for 19 time zones.’

Images: Photos by Tommy Kha, 2010.

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