“I don’t believe you can depersonalize your work—that’s too idealistic,” says Wu Liewei, whose photos, like everything about him, pulsate with energy. This energy might be understood as the collision of the frenetic and the still, like a breaker crashing against a reef.
“My works pay homage to intuition and the subconscious,” he says, though he’s also been known to click the shutter 70 times just to get the image he wants. What Wu really wants seems to be to satisfy some unmet craving.
“去个人化太理想主义了，我不相信。” 这句话来自邬烈威，他是一位摄影师。他的作品和人一样，透出精力旺盛的样子。这种旺盛可以理解成是疯狂和沉寂的相互冲撞，就像浪花拍打在礁石上。他说：“我做作品更尊崇直觉和潜意识” 。但同时，他也会因想要的一瞬镜头而重复按 70 次快门。欲求不满才像是邬烈威追逐的目的。
Wu grew up in Ningbo and moved to Hangzhou for college, but he dropped out after one year. “It was really boring, and at the time I just sort of wanted to be free,” he says. He always liked to explore on foot, and in summer 2013 he began using a camera to record his observations, taking pictures like crazy, as a sort of urban adventure. “I remember I had a Canon 600D, one of the most basic cameras,” he says. He didn’t begin seriously studying photography until he ordered a twin-lens reflex camera. Given how outgoing and talkative he is, it’s hard to imagine him ever being shy, yet he says before he picked up a camera he was quite withdrawn. Photography opened up a valve, and the words and thoughts he used to keep inside came pouring out.
The first thing that catches your eye in Two-Dimensional Code Maze, Wu’s first series, which he began shooting in 2013, are the naked bodies. “Only when you strip off your clothes are you your true self,” he explains. Young, bare-skinned figures appear against a variety of backdrops: city towers, abandoned houses, wooded areas on the outskirts of town. Everything feels both natural and out of place, and it’s hard to imagine what the models would look like with clothes on. “I want viewers to cast aside their labels, to be in this setting and explore how that person relates to that place at that time,” he says. For him, each photograph is a mirror. But what do all these mirrors reflect?
Wu says he can see himself continuing to shoot this series as long as he lives. But he also has another project underway, which he calls The Best of Times.
他最早的系列是 2013 年的《二维宫坊》。连续的裸体，是视觉上对这个系列的第一印象，“去除衣服表现的自己，才是真的自己。” 脱下外衣的年轻身体出现在城市楼宇、郊野绿林、废弃空房之中，一切看上去自然而又带来冲击。我们想象不到穿上外衣，他们会是什么模样。“我想让人去掉原本一切的标签，处于环境中，探索当时那个人和那个地方之间的关系。” 邬烈威说摄影是镜子，那么这一面面镜子，反射出了什么？《二维宫坊》他说会拍到死，除此之外，还有《最好的年代》。
In 2013, the same year he started Two-Dimensional Code Maze, he began documenting his peers, and the photos he’s taken make up the series The Best of Times. “I’m actually a pessimist,” he explains when asked about the title, “but I wanted give this series a more positive name.” The photos focus on his friends, though some are of online contacts who volunteered to model. “I’ve shot a lot of people. Some have kids, some have their own business, some have been abroad for school, and some have even spent time in prison.” Since photographing them, Wu has quietly followed their lives. “I’m thinking of tracking them down in a few years and shooting them again,” he explains.
Most of these snapshots are intentionally styled and posed. Perhaps, as Wu says, “there’s no such thing as a truly candid photograph.” But what is truth? In this pile of images, one figure holds a toy gun and gazes into the distance, while another one looks up, mouth open, standing in a corner. A third face is covered in coins. Are these not true? “Sometimes I feel I’m really not taking pictures—I’m more of an observer, using the camera as a recording device.”
Two-Dimensional Code Maze and The Best of Times explore individuals, identities, and social labels, and they seem liberating both for Wu and for the people he shoots—like scratching an itch. Even more liberating was completing his handmade book, Explicit Night Wind, in late 2016. At only 92 pages, it’s surprisingly heavy, and it takes about an hour to look over carefully. “People often say my work is explicit, but what does ‘explicit’ mean?” This question is one of the reasons he created this book. He says he’s seen people looking through it be brought to tears.
《二维宫坊》和《最好的年代》主要是探索人、身份和社会标签，也像是给年轻人和他自己挠痒而伴随的释放。而更让他自己释放的是 2016 年末，这本亲手做的手工书——《露骨的晚风》。整整 92 页，男生一只手拿都会觉得重。如果你仔细读下来，需要大约一个小时。“经常有人说我的作品露骨，但什么才是露骨呢？”，这个疑问是他做这本书的原因之一。他还告诉我，有人读着读着就当他面哭了。
Beyond the large number of photographs and images of people, in this book he tried something new: he recorded the wind blowing over various natural obects, put the recordings on a palm-sized circuit board, and stuck it in the book. “The first page had sound. I sampled the wind and put the recording on a circuit board. But then it broke.”
Paging through the book gives a more intimate feel than seeing the photos in a gallery. It shows images on all kinds of materials and forms a sort of “graphic narrative.” Going through it page by page triggers a visual response and personal memories. “By flipping through this book, you’re actually creating wind,” says Wu. These images lead us through boredom to a world of imagination and vitality.
Last year Wu stopped grabbing his camera every time he goes out. He used to think that taking pictures and documenting things was important, documenting. Now he says, “I often forget to take my camera. When I see something I want to shoot, I just stare and blink, and I feel like I’ve got it.”
It’s like they say: to take a good picture, you have to see a good picture.