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Award puts photographer's career into focus

By Fang Aiqing in Beijing and Sun Ruisheng in Pingyao, Shanxi Province | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-10 07:43

A photographer from Taiwan, Zhuang Ling, received a lifetime achievement award at the 19th Pingyao International Photography Festival on Sept 21.

The award honors Zhuang's dedication to cross-Straits exchanges in the field of photography and his contribution to Taiwan's photographic undertaking, according to the organizing committee of the festival, which was held in the ancient city of Pingyao in Shanxi province.

In an exhibition entitled Eternal Mountains Fixed in Photographs: A Tribute to Zhuang Ling, which ran from Sept 19 to 25, a selection of works spanning his 60-year photography career - including his early series Father and Family and Art Teachers and Art Friends - was displayed in a renovated former textile mill.

Na Risong, the exhibition's curator, described these early works as "photographic portraits of two generations of literati in Taiwan".

"Honestly recording his life, these works also combine the documentary and the abstract, the traditional and the modern. With diverse styles, they have conveyed profound thoughts," he says.

Zhuang was born in Guizhou province in 1938 and followed his father to Taiwan in 1948.

Award puts photographer's career into focus

His father Zhuang Yan, a renowned calligrapher, educator and museologist, evacuated some of the ancient treasures from the Forbidden City to Southwest China during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Zhuang Yan later served as deputy director of the Palace Museum in Taipei.

In 1953, Zhuang Ling took his first ever photo with a camera borrowed by his father. It was a picture of his classmates who were hiking with him.

He was greatly encouraged by the result, and the picture was also welcomed by his friends, igniting a passion for photography that continues to burn within him to this day.

Turning the lens on his father, Zhuang Ling poured his love for his paternal parent into the pictures.

In one, his father looks out of the window at the trees and mountains, a pipe in hand, with a smile on his face and sincerity in his eyes.

There's also a photo presenting his father learning tai chi, and another shows his parents, wife and eldest daughter on a mountain with the distant Palace Museum in Taipei in the background.

In 1979, he photographed his dying father lying in a hospital bed attached to an intravenous drip.

From Zhuang Ling's perspective, the exhibition was a presentation of his view toward family bonds and the moral ethics taught by his father and, most importantly, it embodied traditional Chinese culture through personal photography.

"My father had wide social connections. He was a close friend of the artists Tai Jingnong and Zhang Daqian. Renowned photographer Lang Jingshan was a frequent visitor to our home. They had a profound effect on me and laid a very good humanistic foundation for my future photographic career."

Zhuang Ling's lens captured them all.

Photography buff Zhang Di says, Zhuang not only recorded the late masters' images and temperament, but left a rare archive for future generations.

One of the exhibits, comprising nine separate photos, named Looking at the Mountains, expressed Zhuang's current state of mind and view toward life.

Zhuang came to Pingyao for the first time in 2000 and returned in 2001, when he was invited to attend the first Pingyao International Photography Festival.

Zhuang along with his wife, Chen Xiasheng, who has been researching and promoting Chinese knots, also donated a portrait of Zhuang's mother, Chen and their daughter - three generations of women - that Zhuang took in the 1970s.

The couple's home is located on a mountain in suburban Taipei, where they can see the distant glittering downtown and a cascade of green hills from the balcony, says Na, who visited them in August to discuss the exhibition.

"At that time, it seemed like I was looking at a picture of two octogenarians sitting on this balcony, reading and looking at the mountains. They are witnessing the changing scenery in the distance and also, from time to time, looking back at the historical moments they've been through," he says.

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Award puts photographer's career into focus

(China Daily Global 10/10/2019 page14)

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