Offcut, the Edge 边缘及边角料
BY Zhao Qian 赵谦
Size: 240mm x 320mm x 10mm
64 pages, Hardcover
First Edition: 600, Published in Sep 2017
Book Design: Yinhe
Published by Jiazazhi Press
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In The Press
Zhao uses bright flashes to accentuate glossy surfaces, vivid neon lighting to illuminate scenes and the glaring Californian sun to remove shadows, flattening foreground into background. Within the images themselves there’s little sense of time; between the images there’s nothing that suggests a sequence. They appear more dream-like, sudden and unexpected, as in one memorable picture where a shark floats suspended from a deep blue ceiling. People are almost always absent, though their traces remain in piles of rubbish, discarded food and empty chairs and tables.
Each photo seems constrained, either by close-ups, by lack of context, or by grilles and reflective glass screens that separate the camera from the subject. Zhao repeatedly addresses the problem of the limitations of sharing experience, of describing a dream to someone else, of determining what is real and how to capture it. I’m reminded of the words of the French post-structuralist philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who, writing in The System of Objects (1968) on the symbolism of materials, holds glass as most representative material of the modern world:
Glass facilitates faster communication between inside and outside, yet at the same time it sets up an invisible but material caesura which prevents such communication from becoming a real opening onto the world.
This notion is pertinent to the work of photographers, who invariably deal with the world through lenses and shutters. There’s a moment in Offcuts that seems to address this “invisible but material caesura” directly. A single page is replaced with a transparent sheet of acetate, and beneath this page is a photo of another framed photo. It causes a pause in the rhythm of browsing the book: you turn the page twice to reveal the same image. This sudden change in the texture of the page, its reflection of the light and the repeated action of turning a page reminds me of the disconnect between myself and the objects within the photographs. I’m not actually seeing the real place: like Zhao, I am associating it with things I’ve experienced before.
Musée Magazine - Katie Heiserman
Qian Zhao, born in China and based in San Francisco, creates what he describes as “slightly off-kilter images” that, apprehend the intersection of quotidian and uncanny. Zhao’s disorienting prints look like computer-generated images, and at first glance it is hard to tell if they are hyper-real or artificial. Zhao explains why ordinary items in his photos such as chairs, tables, plants, and houses are intentionally de-familiarized. “Landmarks, shopping malls and new neighborhoods help me to construct an unreal city in images and memory: a ﬁctitious city that is based on an actual place but that is transformed by an associative process.”
British Journal of Photography - Alex Jackson
When Zhao Qian arrived in San Francisco back in 2014, he immediately felt disorientated. It was a feeling that arose from a combination of jet-lag, a new culture and a sense of being the outsider. He immediately started to detail these experiences in his diary, and it wasn’t long before he transposed those feelings to photography.
Zhao Qian, who hails from China, has an interesting view, a great eye, and wonderful sense of color that will no doubt grow in time. His capturing of the ordinary invoking something “other” somewhere else is a pleasure to view, demanding questions that may not be answered.
View his work with an open mind, and smile, because you could now be in the
twilight zone of Zhao’s world.