Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China
SAN ANTONIO – After photographing their way through four Chinese cities in 10 days, five Texas photographers are eager to share their memories and experiences. A new photo exhibit, "Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China," is on display at the Institute of Texan Cultures, April 7 to May 27.
For the homecoming show, curator Arturo Almeida selected 50 photos from the five photographers: Peter Brown, Al Rendon, Ricardo Romo, Joel Salcido and Ansen Seale. After visiting Lishui City at the invitation of the China Photographers Association, the Texas photographers set out to capture the spirit and culture of China in photographs.
"Every photographer has his own eye," said curator Arturo Almeida. "Even though they were all in the same place, looking at the same people and environments, their photos were so different from each other. These five photographers each had his own unique vision of how he saw China."
The group’s itinerary included a brief stop in Shanghai before heading to Lishui City. They spent a half-day in the rural town of Dhu Rong, where a village festival was underway, complete with outdoor theater and a performance of Chinese opera.
"I looked at the complexities of Chinese culture and society," said Ricardo Romo. "It’s an enormous country – 80 percent rural – and we were all fascinated by the rural aspects. People go to Beijing and Shanghai. We went to a small town and got to see a play that’s been performed for hundreds of years. I like to look at small communities and how they unite and celebrate together."
Photographer Al Rendon remarked on the familiarity of scenery, which at once reminded him how similar China is to Texas, but at the same moment, how different.
"China is a very diverse culture, and there was a lot to see," he said. "China was both completely different from San Antonio and also quite familiar. The countryside was at times very recognizable."
Rendon is known for his work documenting San Antonio and South Texas with images of Charreada and other traditions. In Descriptions of China, he hopes to convey a similar story to Texans.
"While in China, I sought out the same kind of pictures I take at home – the moments and places that reflect the culture of the places we visited," he said. His photos encompassed a wide range of people, architecture and landscapes.
The trip took the Texas photographers to the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and the town of Wenzhou.
Photographer Joel Salcido’s experience sharpened into one perfect image on his visit to the Great Wall. He explained in his blog:
"As I stood atop a high point of the Great Wall and as my eyes followed the Wall snake across a valley formed by a jagged mountain range, I suddenly saw the ultimate symbol of transformation that modern China is morphing into," he wrote. "What I witnessed was surreal, a white rail train racing northward, running parallel to the Great Wall as if dragging 5000 years of its ancient history towards the future."
Donald Lien, director of Confucius Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio, helped facilitate the trip to China. With an invitation from the China Photographers Association, the five Texas photographers exhibited "Infinite Horizons: Visions of Texas" at the 14th annual China International Photographic Art Exhibition in Lishui City. Lien explained, Texas is largely unknown to the Chinese, and similarly, China is a mystery to Texans.
"This trip to China was meant to improve communications and understanding between Chinese and Americans," said. "One way to do that is to send photographers. Photos can tell us so much."
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.