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About the Photographer
Chinese, b. 1977
The intimate portraits in Shen Wei’s portfolio Almost Naked speak as much to the artist’s personal background as they do to the emotions of the subjects in his pictures. Born and raised in Mainland China, Shen Wei states that he was “brought up strictly and conservatively” and found almost no room for self-expression in his home country. His photographs react to this upbringing by exploring the ease with which Americans lay bare their emotions, as well as their bodies, for his camera.
The series develops slowly from picture to picture, and viewers can sense the artist’s presence building through each of his subjects. Several photographs show sitters peering up at the camera with a curiosity that mirrors Shen Wei’s own inquisitiveness and desire to identify with whomever he is looking at. It is our nature as humans to understand our own identity by looking at others. The photographs in Almost Naked invite viewers to study each of Shen Wei’s subjects along with him, and to find connections of their own where they can.
In another body of work, titled Chinese Sentiment, Shen Wei further mines his personal background by returning to China and attempting to reconnect with the authentic lives of people and places in his birth country. Pictures like Jiong, Shanghi and Trees and Lights, Wuhan, Hubei Province wander between public and private life and reveal a melancholy intimacy rarely seen in mainstream depictions of China. Much like Shen Wei’s personal biography, China’s rising middle class straddles a past and a present that are vastly different from one another. The country’s collective shift in prosperity is shown to have affected citizens’ outlook on life philosophically as much as it has economically.
Shen Wei was raised in Shanghai, China, but now lives and works in New York City. He holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, a BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and a BA from Shanghai Light Industry College. Works by the artist have been widely exhibited, including shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA; Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City; Australian Center for Photography, Paddington, Australia; Katzen Arts Center, American University, Washington, DC; and the Saatchi Gallery, Zoo Art Fair, London, United Kingdom.