16.Apr - 16.Jul 2021
Jiang Jian - Archives on Orphans
22.Aug - 9.Oct 2015
Exhibitions > Jiang Jian – Archives on Orphans
Archives on Orphans
Jiang Jian is a photographer from Henan Province in China, an area rich in history, tradition and culture. For many years, Jiang devoted himself to recording the process of urbanization in this large, agricultural province, but after completing the photographic series Scenes (1986 – 1996) and Masters (1996 – 2001) his focus shifted to the documentation of individual lives and their fate within society.
In 2004, the local charitable community and the Buddhist Shaolin Temple launched a campaign together to support 1,036 orphans from this humble, rural province of over 100 million inhabitants. These orphans had lost both parents and were all under the age of 16. As a participant in this campaign, Jiang Jian documented this act of kindness in photographs and archives. He designed a system to follow up and record the changes in the lives of the orphans by portraying them every five years. From among 1000 children, his lens followed 12 orphans for a decade. Starting in 2004, he visited and photographed each one of them in 2004, in 2009, and then again in 2014. Altogether this project resulted in 48 black and white and 12 groups of color portraits, which document the unique life experience of the individuals.
It was a great challenge for the artist to face each orphan’s specific situation. In photography, this is referred to as Objective Photography, yet, behind these photos often hide unexpected, subjective stories. Archives on Orphans has become a photographic social investigation about time and individual destiny. Crucial for this project are Jiang’s personal perception of his role as a photographer and his artistic approach towards photography. In 2014, when the artist revisited the 12 orphans, one of them, a graduate student, politely rejected his request to be photographed during the interview. Afterwards, the artist realized that his ambitious investigation on personal fate should come to an end. In his own words, the mission of Archives on Orphans had been fulfilled:
“My photography conveys each orphan’s individual feelings when I face them. Over the past decade, through communicating with these orphans and their relatives, I see that love brings hope. Although my photography, to some extent, may provide some help to them, I can also see that documentary photography acts as a double-edged sword; it will never become a cure-all. I had hoped that my photos would not bother them
too much, and therefore, I decided to finish this project. In the meantime, I hope that the future life of each of these orphans will leave space and time for contemplation. Photography is the art of time, and time can witness all. I believe that these orphans are not alone in their future lives. Furthermore, I believe in the effort and power of each individual life. I wish that all of these kids can walk through the dark shadow of their lives and find their own ideal home belonging to themselves.”
On August 22nd, Galerie Julian Sander is proud to present Jiang Jian’s Archives on Orphans premiere exhibition in Europe and host the book launch of Archives on Orphans, published in a limited edition with worldwide distribution by Kettler Publishing Germany. Jiang Jian will be present at the opening and is looking forward to sharing his experience in the field of photography with the visitors. The opening will take place as part of SaisonstART Bonn 2015. The exhibition was realized in collaboration with Catherine Cheng and K26.