Shen Wei on Portraiture

Shen Wei, Untitled Self-portrait (Suzhou River)
fototazo has asked twelve photographers what makes a good portrait. This is the 7th in the series of their responses. The other responses in the series have come from Lucas Foglia, Susan Worsham, Steve Davis, Elinor Carucci, Mark Powell and Jess T. Dugan.

Born and raised in Shanghai, Shen Wei is a fine art photographer currently based in New York City. Shen’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is featured in many private and public collections including the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Museum of Chinese in America, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Kinsey Institute.

Shen is a recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Creative Artist Residency, the 2007 Griffin Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Excellent Photographer Award from 2008 China Pingyao International Photography Festival and the 2008 Urban Artist Initiative New York City Fellowship. Shen was named one of the top fifteen emerging photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine in 2007 and was also part of PDN’s annual PDN30 list in 2008.

Shen Wei: Seductive, mystical, introspective and beauty are some of the elements in a portrait that draw me in. I know I am looking at a good portrait when I cannot stop exploring it, when I question the narrative and when I feel both a struggle and a pleasure. I will argue that the meaning of a good portrait is probably different for each individual. For me it is a matter of whether I can have an instinctual emotional response to the portrait.

Yijun Liao, Start your day with a good breakfast together,
One of the portraits that surprised me is a self-portrait by Chinese photographer Yijun Liao, entitled "Start your day with a good breakfast together, 2009." The playfulness, the disturbingly thin body, the unpolished setting and the in-your-face sexuality interact all together and completely. It is both brutally honest and strangely surrealistic. It is that kind of contradiction that makes this portrait great.