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In forest of horsehead monsters

AN alternative photographer and a painter with extraordinary visions conjure up provocative worlds of their own that challenge conventional assumptions. Wang Jie reports.

Feng Hai is an internationally known fashion photographer, but he also calls himself "an alternative photographer" who shoots a very different kind of surreal world of the mind.

"I am a dreaming person, so I always try to realize my dream every time I shoot," he says.

He chooses to inhabit a mysterious realm, "a little planet of his own where he moves at his own pace in his own orbit."

The overwhelming, meticulously staged photo titled "Searching for Divinity" is a spectacular scene: a forest of horse-head monsters wearing ancient Chinese costumes. Before them two naked young saints are praying. Despite the sensational content, the photograph is subtle in light and composition.

Born in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, in 1971, Feng graduated from the fashion design department of the Central Academy of Arts and Design in 1995. He also studied visual arts in Australia.

Feng becomes widely known as a fashion photographer producing fabulous covers for Vogue and other magazines.

"I have my own criteria in choosing models - beauty is not a prerequisite," he says. "I seek a unique temperament to give me stimulation that is missing from other empty, beautiful faces."

In recent years Feng has left the fashion world behind.

Through his pictures, the viewers feel they are crossing time and space and encountering extraordinary, almost extraterrestrial experience.

As his pictures show, Feng practices an almost lost art of composition, a power that cannot be underestimated. The meaningful placement of foreground and background, context and content, within a single frame creates a little planet of his mind, but somehow it makes sense to viewers.

"I share Freud's view of the sex drive as the most important motivating force," he says. "That is to say, no matter what you paint or compose, it is a thorny reflection on that, and I want to express this more directly and powerfully through my pictures."


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