Jimei x Arles Photo Festival

Jimei x Arles Photo Festival

With most of the Northern Hemisphere descending steadily into the darkness of winter, photography lovers from China and around the world congregated in the mild and sunny coastal city of Xiamen this weekend to beat the cold and indulge in art at the fourth annual Jimei · Arles Photo Festival. Co-founded by Chinese visionary photographer Rongrong and Rencontres d’Arles festival director Sam Stourdze, the festival has already become one art world’s yearly must-attend events.

Spanning 30 exhibitions and 70 artists, this year’s Jimei · Arles exhibited works by photographers from China, France and everywhere in between. Central Studios gives you a run-down of some of the most memorable exhibits





Matjaz Tancic


In 2017, Slovenian photographer Matjaz Tancic was invited by Koryo Studio to come to shoot a series of portraits of ordinary North Koreans. Shot in 3D, Tancic’s portraits are a refreshing departure from the grim Nat Geo-style Pyongyang snapshots to which the outside world has become accustomed.  A little playful, a little surreal, the images with their paper-doll-like quality challenge the possibility of ever really “knowing” North Korea.

© Matjaž Tančič with Koryo Studio


Coca Dai

“Judy Zhu 2008-2015”

Started as a series of daily snapshots of his girlfriend, Shanghai photographer Coca Dai’s exhibition “Judy Zhu 2008-2015”  is a profound and moving portrayal of intimacy and relationships. As the series follows Judy from carefree youth into pregnancy and parenthood, the images without giving too much context are able to give one the sense of a couple’s rich and vast two-person world. 

© Dai Jianyong


Ann Ray

“Lee McQueen”

Ann Ray’s “Lee McQueen” is another testament to an enduring intimate relationship, this between the photographer and her dear friend, the visionary fashion designer Alexander McQueen. McQueen trusted Ray with the documentation of his life and allowed her unrivaled access to himself and his work. The resulting photos, shot in achingly crisp black and white, are an invaluable and moving record of the life and times of troubled artist gone too soon.

© Ann Ray


Vernacular Food Photography

“Anything That Walks”

Timothy Prus of the Archive of Modern Conflict, his personal collection of more than 8 million found images from around the world, has brought his eccentric project to Xiamen with a collection of vernacular images of Chinese food taken from the 1960s to the 1990s. Collating old menus, restaurant advertisements and personal snapshots, the exhibit is delightfully garish and surprisingly unappetizing.

curated by both Ruben Lundgren and Timothy Prus







Greetings From South Korea

“History Through the Lens”

“Reinventing Our Time”

“Same Seasons, Different Memories”

South Korea made a big showing this year with a spate of exhibitions spanning modern Korean photographic history. The starting point was a retrospective of the works of Limb Eung-Sik, the godfather of Korean photography who extracted the art form from Japanese colonial influence by eschewing pictorialism in favor of stark documentary photography depicting ordinary Koreans. Taken from the 1930s to 1950s, Limb’s straightforward photos showing war orphans and refugees portray the country’s brutal past in haunting black-and-white.

© Limb Eung-sik

“Reinventing our time” displays works by five Korean photographers belonging to the country’s first generation of art photographers nurtured by Limb, a prolific educator. Standouts include Kim Jungman, who finds the unexpected texture and gorgeous moments of abstraction in black-and-white shots of trees and other natural objects.

© Kim Jungman;Lee Gap-Chu;Min Byung-Hun;Park Ki Ho

“Same Seasons, Different Memories” introduces the audience to a newer generation of Korean photographers who are confronting the ennui of life in a developed society. Training their cameras on stack interchanges, dilapidated apartments buildings and public swimming pools, the artists of “Same Seasons, Different Memories” are able to evoke the mundanity and humanity of everyday Korean life through seemingly simple images. (Images from this series are now being exhibited at Jimei Citizen Square Main Exhibition Hall.)

© Kim Seunggu; Chung Heeseung;Beak Jungki;Yoo Youngjin;Ha Tae-Bum




Feng Li

“White Nights In Arles”


Xu Lin

“Eyes Of Sky”


Fujianese Photographers From The 1980s

“Turning Point”

Three adjacent exhibits at the More Art Museum invited attendees to view China’s journey from closed country to exuberant openly one through the eyes of a diverse group of Chinese artists. “White Nights in Arles” by the festival’s 2017 discovery award winner Feng Li is a collection of images of the French city through the nonjudgmental and curious lens of a young Chinese artist.

© Feng Li

Feng’s cosmopolitan vision drew a stark contrast to the images presented by Xu Lin, a Chinese engineer living in America who uncovered dozens of declassified aerial surveillance photographs of Chinese cities taken by American reconnaissance pilots in the 1950s and 1960s, during the country’s most sealed-off and stagnant period.

Central Shanghai and Pudong, July 7, 1964

Mission Pilot Johnny Wang, ROCAF

Proposed by Xu Lin

Hangzhou Railway Station

Proposed by Xu Lin

Central Xiamen and Gulangyu Island. August 20, 1958

Unknown US Mission Pilot

Proposed by Xu Lin

Macau. March 26, 1962

Mission Pilot Tiger Wang

Proposed by Xu Lin

Beijing. September 21, 1966

US KH-7 Satellite Photo

Mission Pilot Tiger Wang

Proposed by Xu Lin

Meanwhile, “Turning Point,” a curated selection of Fujian photographers from the 1980s, presented China in the hectic but hopeful era of early Reform and Opening when young artists were grappling with the recent past and trying to figure out a way to move onward. Especially memorable were the photos of Chen Yongpeng, whose critical images of loaded sites like Tiananmen Square and the old Summer Palace challenge prevailing narratives about his country’s history.

© Li Shixiong;Jiao Honghui; Zeng Huang;Wang Lujia;Cui Jiannan



Words by Lauren Teixeira

Images by the Artists