Feng Jiang is a Chinese born photographer working and living in Canada. His work grows as he does like extended self-portraits that reflect desires, ideologies, fantasies and brain waves from different stages of his life. FInd out how expeirences, stimulations, and particularly the 90s reflect in his work.
How has your cultural background shaped your work? And how do you see your work changing?
Growing up I always felt different, and for the longest time I didn’t know what it was, but I was always drawn to beautiful things; stories, art or music. I created universes that I could escape to, but I was taking inspiration from my surroundings. I had a happy childhood but there was something missing, I did not have agency and was always told to do things, and I just went with it, for me experiences are important, as long as I am experiencing something, I can get inspired by it. But soon it became redundant and the older I got the more I felt a gap in my life. When I realized I was gay I had to start learning to navigate myself in a world that was censoring anything that is queer. Growing up in China and coming to Canada at the age of 15 I kept trying to find ways to represent myself. And this journey still goes on today. My work evolves simultaneously with my personal growth, they are like extended self-portraits that reflect desires, ideologies, fantasies and brain waves from different stages of my life.
What other influences are there? What makes you create?
As humans, we are perhaps the only species on this planet to have the most saturated stimulations occurring every second. Influences for me are like a collection of specific experiences that I curate in my brain to form something new, they could be an emotion from a song, a frame in a movie, a moment in time where light hits the table in a particular way. And of course, I get inspired from people’s work and people’s presence. All these things give me moments of passion that rushes me to create. Another theme that I like to explore in my work is to mix eras. I am fascinated by the past and always imagined myself living in different eras. I have this practice where I try to detach myself from the current time and try to place myself in different time periods. These days I am really interested in the 90s, which also reflects in my recent work.
How do you feel photography and art shape the future? What power does photography hold?
Being a nostalgic person I don’t really think about the “grand future”, for me the future is so unpredictable I’d rather live in the now. But I do like to think about the future as a form of aesthetic, a fatasy. I don’t like to limit myself when it comes to imagining the future because if you already limit your imagination, you are excluding possibilities on something that hasn’t happened yet, and I think photography is a powerful visual form that is in the middle of the real and the fake, taking elements from real life and transform it into the utopian view of the creator.
Do you photograph people you know or do you prefer to photograph strangers? Why?
I photograph familiar strangers, as I do most of my casting on social media. Before meeting them, I do get a sense of who my subjects are as individuals, and some of my projects start with a face or a personality (or both), and then I build my world around that. I like to photograph different people all the time, and meeting people in the industry is definitely a very rich experience.
How comfortable or uncomfortable are you being in front of the camera?
I took a self portrait once and I had to do it really really drunk.
What is your ultimate dream project to work on?
To photograph all my family members naked for a family portrait.