project: "Intervention and Cultural Tourism in China" A Fulbright Grant Project

Intervention and Cultural Tourism in China
A Fulbright Grant Project

China remains a screen onto which Westerners project their fantasies of the exotic. Photography, as used by tourists, artists, and academics alike has contributed significantly to a domain of fantasy and spectacle. Images produced through snapshot photography, often imitating a documentary style, are bound to the preconceptions of a group of photographers that is largely foreign. An infant slung over its young mother's shoulder wearing richly embroidered Asian garments, a straw basket roped to a man's back, a snowy landscape that could have been painted a thousand years earlier: these are the romantic notions of an exotic world created through the popular practice of photography. 

This project presents challenges and alternatives to the popular mythology perpetuated in contemporary images of China. The result will be a record and a reflection of a cultural identity created by Western ideology and produced by tourism in China for export to the West. Beijing's most popular tourist attractions (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, etc.) are the exotic theatres wherein fantasy and spectacle are invented for a visitor¹s lens. The Chinese, as subjects of the tourist camera, are explicitly involved in the construction of these images made for consumption. In my project I will reveal the outsider and the insider, the Westerner and the Easterner, the photographer and the photographed as participants in this continued portrayal of exotic "Other".