Photography, for me, has been about finding meaning in life and the situations that i find myself and finding answers to the questions that arise. For the last 25 years i have been working to understand the culture and the masculinity of Chinese communities. My research degree from RMIT compared and contrasted the Anglo-Celtic base of Australian and the cultural base of our masculinities. I have done this investigation of Chinese culture, as the ‘other’. In the Philippines this is a privileged position however in Mainland culture it places the white body and mind into a position of the exotic, with assumed reason to respect yet, excluded and marginalised within the main culture and society. I did artists in residencies at both Red Gate Gallery and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, observed how the art centres negotiate the political and culture landscape of Beijing. I later worked at Red Gate Gallery. My investigation of these themes sparks the curiosity of Chinese curators in the same way that work by Guan Wei and others interests Australian curators, that is when the curatorialship is dominated by one side of the understanding the ‘others’ perspective is fresh and is assumed to not come with the same cultural baggage. Looking at any issue from one side assuming that the other side is understood is problematic.
Perhaps the most pressing issue for the future of Australia is our negotiations in our relationship with China. I spent over three years living in Beijing, realising how little i understood despite my friendships in Australia with Chinese from various cultures, as they adapted to my culture. During my time in China i looked for opportunities to find visual representations of these differences of understanding. I looked at the public and private. I used my foreign middle aged body to negotiate access. Something that my chinese photographer friends told me that could not gain access. I accepted offers to work for Changzhou and Qingdao local government to make propaganda books for Foreign Languages Press, that is well known for this genre of publication. I photographed artists working in their studios, new hotels and their staff, on streets, and continued the Q project, photographing men from sleep to leaving their homes. This later project has been ten years in the making and covers 8 cites from melbourne to tokyo altering the East West axis of photography to a South-North one.
I make photographs because i have too. It helps me understand life and the people around me, it also is about capturing moments to prompt stories from my own life. I see value in other people looking at these question and attempts at answers, as racism, distrust and understanding only come from engagement. In my early years of making work i was accused of fetishising the other, but as i explain in my research, they are tribe, my peers, in my thinking I’m between my assumed culture and theirs.
This project was exhibited in Changzhou's art district as part of the book launch.