faces, portraits of rural China | Steve Speer
During three separate visits to China between 2007 and 2011, Steve immersed himself in rural living, staying for many weeks in Nam On village in Guangdong Province and travelling to several remote areas in Yunnan Province where he documented life in four leprosy colonies. His sensitive photographic portraits tell a story of hardship and toil yet also exhibit a sense of dignity and grace. Says Steve, "This was a life changing experience for me. I got to know these people on a very personal level and I spent time with them, working side by side in their fields planting rice, playing mahjong, eating and drinking. There was a level of comfort that was achieved before I started taking photographs and I believe it comes through in the eyes of the subjects of these portraits. There was nothing surreptitious about what I was doing; we were face-to-face, engaged, and I felt a deep sense of connection to the individuals I was photographing".
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Photography has been a common thread throughout my life. From my early forays in the mid-seventies, to the present I have had a passion for photography that has never waned; in fact, I am as excited now about my photographic pursuits as I have ever been.
Photography provides me with a sense of perpetual gratification. It is exciting to see a potential image on the ground glass or through the view finder of my camera and that excitement returns when I look at the freshly developed negative or raw digital file. Each progressive step (from the first work print to the finished fine image that is framed and hung on the wall to share with others) adds to this sense of excitement. I exhibit some of my work in colour but prefer to work in black and white because when you strip away the “crutch of colour” only the key elements of composition and ‘quality of light’ remain. It is an exciting challenge to work within these constraints to create an image which is strong enough to draw in a viewer and resonate with their sense of connection.