Hu Yang's extensive photographic publication "Shanghai Living" documents the living spaces of 500 families living in today's Shanghai. A selection of 100 of the images were first displayed at ShanghART Gallery and gained unforeseen public attention due to their rare and unique presentation of intimate and private spaces.
The featured photographs take on an anthropological and sociological approach that attempts to mirror the dramatic changes in domestic living situations that occurred following the process of modernization and the Open Door policy in China. The photographs act as cultural documents as well as aesthetic objects that give us an almost voyeuristic view into a group of diverse private spheres ranging from the modest dwellings of migrant workers to the luxurious abodes of foreign diplomats and successful business people. The photographs are contextualized with captions that quote the respective inhabitants’ conversations with the photographer prior to the shoot. In these conversations, Hu Yang focuses on the same three elemental questions: How is your quality of life now? What is your hope/wish for the future? Finally, what is your biggest pain/trouble?
The "Shanghai Living" series functions as an archive: all subjects and interiors, whether wealthy or impoverished, are equally treated. One might naturally question the objectivity, authenticity, and honesty of the documentary photos. As with any other visual art form, the intentions and stylistic strategies are, ultimately, always a subjective choice made by the photographer. Nevertheless, these intimate portraits do not come across as staged settings, and unlike exterior views of the city, they are spaces that are otherwise closed to the public. In the end, it is up to the spectator to manage and interpret these contemporary iconographies of modern Shanghai homes.
Hu Yang's recent exhibitions include 10th Anniversary Festival "Contemporary Art in Traditional Museum", The Museum of Traveler P. Kozlov, St.Petersburg, Russia (2012); Reversed Image, Representations of Shanghai and its Contemporary Material Culture, Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago , Chicago, U.S.A. (2009); The China Project—Three Decades: The Contemporary Chinese Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia(2009); Shanghai Longtang, ShanghART F-Space, Shanghai (2008), Timefestival 2007, De Witte Zaal, Sint-Lucas Institute for Architecture, Ghent, Belgium(2007), Dans la ville chinoise, Regards sur les mutations d'un empire, Galeries d'expositions temporaires, france(2008); China Contemporary, Art, Architecture and Visual Culture, Photomuseum (Rotterdam, 2006), Sixth International Photography Month in Moscow: Photobiennale 2006, Moscow House of Photography, Shifting Views: Chinese Urban Documentary Photography, Michigan University (2005), Re(-)viewing the City (2005), Guangzhou Photo Biennale, Guangdong Art Museum (2005) and Hu Yang, Shanghai Living, ShanghART Gallery, H-Space (2005).