Shi Guorui uses a slow, painstaking process to produce his monumental cityscapes and landscapes. Each is a unique image produced with a camera obscura constructed specifically for the project. Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China and the second tallest building in the world, and its neighboring skyscrapers are symbols of the New China, in which capitalism has replaced political ideology. But they appear ghostly and insubstantial in the negative image.
Shi is particularly attentive to the social and political context of the locales he photographs, but he also takes full advantage of the aesthetic properties of large-scale negative images. Each is carefully composed, and each presents a range of tones from black to white. While the long exposures usually suppress movement, in this work the shadows of the construction cranes in different positions are visible at the top of the structure.
Shi has reversed the instantaneous results that characterize contemporary digital photography. For him each image is a long mediation—the result of careful preparation, slow exposure, and intricate processing. The images reveal themselves only long after the projects are initially conceived.
Image credit: Shi Guorui. Born in Shanxi Province, China, 1964. Lives and works in Beijing. Shanghai Tower 10-11. August 2013. Unique gelatin silver print camera obscura. Courtesy of the artist. ©2015 Shi Guorui.