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Naked truth

Updated: 2009-12-11 09:03
By Guo Shuhan (China Daily)


Naked truth

Ou Zhihang has been a presenter and producer at Guangdong TV for over three decades.

Nudity and push-ups feature in some of the 26 photos by Ou Zhihang that are part of a series dubbed The Moment (Na Yike), at the 5th Lianzhou International Photo Festival, which opened last weekend in Lianzhou, Guangdong province.

Ou takes naked photos of himself at national landmarks, such as the ruins of last year's May 12 earthquake.

"His works create a connection between the body, public and social events," says Chen Weixing, curator of the photo festival which concluded yesterday at the small city in northwestern Guangdong.

Ou, 51, was awarded a bronze medal at the festival for his work.

Ou's last series, See and Be Seen (Jing.Guan), took eight years to prepare and caused a sensation before the Beijing Olympics, as photos included the Bird's Nest, the China Pavilion for the 2010 World Expo, Great Wall and Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region.

"I insert the human body into a landmark which we have taken for granted, in the hope of creating a unique scene and a special tension," says Ou.

An anchor and producer at Guangdong TV Station for some three decades, Ou founded China's first fashion program, Fashion Presentations, in 1994. He took up fashion photography in the 1980s.

Ou's insight into fashion won him the title "China's Best Fashion Commentator" and "China's Best Fashion Photographer" in 2002 and 2003.

Ou says China's reform and opening up since 1979 has led to increasing openness about the human body.

Ou embarked on his nudity series with Body Station (Shenti Yizhan), in 2000, which was set in hotels around the world. Similar works in China followed. He chose national landmarks to gain a perspective on the nation's long history.

Naked truth

Ou Zhihang does push-up in front of the China Central Television's new building.

Push-ups were not the only poses he tried, he also squatted, lay on his back or stomach, stood, jumped and ran.

"Push-ups do not expose my private parts and the pictures look pure, dedicated, positive and even reverent," says Ou. "Upon first sight, the body looks like a caterpillar, trying to establish a link between itself and society."

Ou's ultimate goal is to record China's rapid changes in an intensive, "crazy" manner. From grand landmarks, he has moved on to major events in the past few years.

"Behind every picture in the Jing.Guan series, there is an unforgettable story. Behind every picture in the Na Yike series, there is an unforgettable, or even a life-or-death struggle."

For the sake of convenience and to save money he works alone. Ou can complete a shot in just 8 seconds. Knowing that his performances may offend, he usually waits until everyone has left the scene.

Ou has been arrested taking pictures and on one occasion he had to delete all the pictures in his camera.

"Every time I go out to shoot, my family worries about me," says Ou. "I write 'help' messages on my cell phone beforehand and nform my friends they should get ready to rescue me if I get into any trouble."

Ou says he has thought about giving up his work because he gets so nervous about doing it sometimes, but after a successful shoot he regains his confidence.

Last year, his Jing.Guan series was shown at the Welcome China Contemporary Artist Colony Exhibition, in the National Center for the Performing Arts.

Now that his "Ou-style push-ups" have become famous, others have contacted him with the offer of help to take pictures. He turns them down to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Ou plans to write a series of stories about life behind the camera and his observations on society.

"I want to use my push-ups to communicate with society and also to witness social development and record history," says Ou.

"I hope viewers will look beyond my fragile body and its paranoid presentation to think about historical truth and all kinds of social issues hidden beneath the surface."