A State of Tabula Rasa
Jiahao Peng is a photographer from Wenling City in Zhejiang Province, China who currently lives in the US. Jiahao has recently completed his MFA from Columbus College of Art and Design, and he continues teaching in the CCAD in the Continuing Education & Professional Studies department. He is a multi-facet artist experimenting in different mediums apart from photography in a documentary and portraiture directions he also is involved in cinematography and installation.
His photographs inspire by presenting an unfolding diversity and faces that are so distinctive yet each work attempts to show something beyond the facial features, the personal story. People oriented, Jiahao captures the moment in motion.
THE PHOTO IS NEVER A STATIC PIECE, IT CONTINUES TO BUILD A CHARACTER AND HIS ROLE IN SPACE IN THE FRAMES THAT EMERGE IN ONE’S MIND. WE SPEAK WITH JIAHAO ABOUT HIS DECISION TO MOVE TO THE US, HIS EXPERIENCE IN LIVING AND STUDYING IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY AND CULTURE, HIS HOMETOWN, AND ALSO THE TASTE IN MUSIC.
In the short film ‘CCAD Stories: Jiahao Peng’, you speak about following parent’s wishes for a person to study. Tell about your path, the decision to go abroad and study in the CCAD.
I started to take photos in high school but was swamped with school work and the intense university entrance examination, so I didn’t have any idea and structure of making art (lacking art education is a big issue in China.) After entering college, I was lost like most of the teenagers that have no idea what to do in the future. A year of learning engineering later, I was strongly driven by the passion of being a photographer and making videos, I changed my major to photography and cinematography advertising. After that, I am confident to say I became an artist.
However, undergraduate life and working experience did not fulfill me, so I decided to study abroad and chose the states. The thriving contemporary art community in the US attracted me a lot, and CCAD is a community in which I could start from the beginning slowly. Also, I truly appreciate the decision to attend a small art school than bigger ones. People are closer, bonded, patient. I still felt overwhelmed but it’s just right.
‘INCLUSIVENESS AND HYBRIDITY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT VALUES THAT I LEARNED AFTER LIVING IN THE STATES’
How do you think living in the US has influenced your worldview and aesthetics you follow in your art?
Inclusiveness and hybridity are the most important values that I learned after living in the states.
What is the most magical part for you during the long day of a photoshoot? What do you enjoy the most?
I would say the most magical part in the whole process of making a photo is the moment of scanning the film or opening the file with scanned photos. It’s so delightful and full of surprises, just like opening birthday gifts.
What would you like to improve this year and which trait can become more polished in a personal or a professional sense?
Reduce the quantity of shutters pressed and try to think more before pressing the shutter.
What music do you listen to? Name the best 2 new releases this year.
I listen to all kinds of music, but Childs’ Yui, Youth Lagoon, The Blaze are my favorite ones. 2019 best is Cellophane by FKA twigs, and uhhh just this one so far.
You had an installation The Black Dwarf this year, a hypercube embroidered with LED lights and a tiny window inside of it. Which feelings do you think most of the viewers might experience while inside the cube?
Dizzy, insecure, maybe calm, or a state of tabula rasa.
What is your favorite shoot from your own works?
There is a photo of my dad taking a nap at home without any clothes, in comfort. I still cuddle with him now, and that scene relieves me as always. It’s such a personal connection, and the audience may not fully empathize with it.
Tell about your hometown and your favorite spots which would be the first to visit once you are back to the city?
I’m from a fishing village in the southeast of China, Wenling City, Zhejiang Province, where they say the first light of millennium shined in China. Stone houses by the East China Sea are my favorite spots. People are moving out, and a lot of the houses are unoccupied, it’s really sad. Some of them were being painted into color to attract tourists (which is a real cliche), I think it ruins the nature of those stone houses totally. I see them every time when I go back to China but never take any photos.
Your interest lies not only with photography but also other mediums of art as cinematography and installation. How do you think those arts allow you to grow as a creator?
I believe all arts are connected, and I expanded my field to installation and sculptures in graduate school. We all are being limited by our titles and labels and forget we can do more.
Who has the main influence on you?
Hard to say who has the main influence but a lot of photographers influenced me a lot, like Robert Mapplethorpe, Alec Soth, Jim Goldberg, Wolfgang Tillmans, Moyra Davey, Boris Groys, Jack Bool, etc. I want to list them all, but there are so many.
Keep creating, and hopefully, I can keep my mind fresh all the time.