Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Travel Photographer's Chinoiserie Phase

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy - All Rights Reserved
Chinoiserie (from 'chinois' the French for Chinese) is a style inspired by art and design from China, Japan and other Asian countries. Fashion designers, furniture makers, wallpaper designers, artists and photographers have consistently been heavily influenced and inspired to produce work that reflect this aesthetic.

My chinoiserie "phase" has been bubbling for quite a while. Certainly influenced by my travels over the past two years to Hanoi, and annual visits to Kuala Lumpur, it was triggered by a couple of visits to The Old China Cafe; an atmospheric eatery in KL's Chinatown's vicinity, and which in turn resulted in a short audio-slideshow bearing the same name.

My immersive experience in the Vietnamese Hầu Đồng rituals for my photo book was another push in this direction, especially with the fashion sense and the ethnic costumes of the mediums.

Yet another influence of mine is In the Mood for Love (Chinese: 花樣年華), the 2000 Hong Kong film directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. It's moody theme is especially inspiring. 


Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved
Whilst in Kuala Lumpur in the past couple of weeks, I was fortunate to have the help of Stanley Hong; a part-time photographer, who shared my getting involved in a couple of "chinoiserie" projects, and made it possible for us to photograph at various exotic locations such as the Old China Cafe and Opium; both in Kuala Lumpur.

My "chinoiserie" phase is not really about fashion and/or attractive models (although it's obviously nice to include them), but about a theme. The theme of "Shanghai-1940" is one that I seek to recreate through still photography and audio, and weave a narrative into stories...akin to short movies.

What I also enjoyed during my photo shoots in Kuala Lumpur is 'directing'. Whether with Tracy Yee or Carolyn Yin, I conjured a storyline that could fit into a longer one, and that will hopefully and ultimately result into a multi-episode work.

For these photo shoots, I used the Fuji X-Pro2 and the Fuji GFX50s.