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December 4, 2011

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Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Photos that 'paint' Buddhist pictures

PHOTOGRAPHER Chen Man became famous for her shots of top fashion models using Beijing's Tian'anmen Square as a backdrop.

Today she is focusing on Buddhism in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. The title is the "Six Dusts" of Buddhism, referring to the five physical senses; she calls the sixth outside opinion.

"For many, the core of Buddhism is not easy to approach," says Chen. "I just tried my way to mirror it."

Chen belongs to the post-1980s generation, many of them considered open-minded, material and Westernized.

"I am interested in Chinese tradition and history, and interpret them from my own angle."

She achieved early fame in shooting a cluster of big stars such as Faye Wong, Fan Bingbing and Zhou Xun for Vogue, Bazaar and Elle.

"In my eyes, everyone is the same with various facets. I find it and fix it in my camera."

She recalls her first fashion shoot in Tian'anmen Square with a chuckle.

"The people around asked whether I was shooting a Chinese bride," she says. "It was gorgeous. But since then, such fashion photos are strictly limited there."

She captured striking contrasts between the traditional old Beijing and the new capital by juxtaposing images of stereotypical symbols and landmarks with those of a fashionable young woman.

Her photos have been collected by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Chen is expert in using brilliant colors to the extreme.

"Now I understand why my scores at school were so poor, because I am born with an eye only for the visual images instead of any characters and figures," she says.

Solo exhibitions are rare at the Museum of Contemporary Art and curator Victoria Lu calls Chen's works "pieces of picture painting, extending the possibilities of photography."

Asked about plans for the future, Chen replies, "I am not a person of plans. I want to reflect people's inner lives, which are still in the Neolithic Age, especially compares with fast-paced technology and science."

Date: Through February 7, 10am-5pm

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