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From Texas to China and Back

Written by , published May 2, 2012


Photo by Peter Brown

Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China, now showing at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, offers  perceptive views of a vast and fast-developing nation through the eyes of five photographers whose careers and creative visions are widely varied: Peter Brown from Houston, Al Rendon, Ricardo Romo, and Ansen Seale from San Antonio, and Joel Salcido from Austin. I had a chance to view the exhibit with my daughter, Lucy, as Fiesta celebrations drew to a close.

The images, shot last fall in and around Shanghai, Lishui City, Wenzhou, and Beijing, were part of a cultural exchange between the Confucius Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio and the China Photographers Association. The photographers were also invited to show their Texas work at the association’s International Photographic Art Exhibition in Lishui.

Although the photographers shot from the same locales, which range from a Chinese opera performance to street market scenes to breathtaking rural landscapes, the images convey distinctive viewpoints. The styles range from classic photojournalism to abstract digital wizardry.

Photo by Joel Salcido

Peter Brown’s glistening images of fresh pork and beef cuts in an outdoor market looked appealing even to my vegetarian daughter. I initially found Ansen Seale’s prints of exaggeratingly expanded street views a bit jarring, but upon further inspection was mesmerized by the surreal effect. Ricardo Romo’s tranquil image of modest, tile-roofed homes flanking a verdant countryside evoked resemblances to rural France. Al Rendon’s depiction of tango dancers provides a joyful context to the bustling Tiananmen Square backdrop. Joel Salcido’s images reveal versatility and humor, whether from a view of a stylist on break in a hair salon or the nostalgic scroll-like quality of a sepia-toned, circle-framed Great Wall. Salcido, a longtime TH contributor, also displayed images from our small-town Texas photo feature series in the Lishui exhibit.

We noticed there were no captions accompanying the photos. While at first it felt a bit puzzling wondering what was shot where, as we viewed each image, we found this encouraged more active interpretation from the viewer.

Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China is on view at the ITC through May 27th.  While at the museum, don’t miss A Maverick’s Texas, photographs taken by students of Pasadena Memorial High School near Houston. The images were inspired by the work of TH Photo Editor Griff Smith, who recently met with the students. Also be sure to see Timeless Texas Toys, which includes an exhibit of paper dolls of famous Texans created by Smithville illustrator Tom Tierney, and a video interview with the artist.

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