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Polishing the image of abandoned theme parks

By Yang Feiyue | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-01-18 07:18

Photographic artist Zhou Chengzhou. [Photo/China Daily]

At that time, the idea of being a photographer as a career had not yet taken shape, and it was purely for fun, he says.

"But I remember I was deeply attracted to the colors and acutely aware of their changes during the photography process," he says.

Graduating from Peking University's Department of Chinese Language and Literature in 2005, Zhou's desire for a creative outlet saw him spend several years designing shoes.

It was during this time that his passion for photography was reignited, after taking more than 200,000 photos of the shoes he designed to promote them online.

"I learned how to present them in the best light, and my photography skills improved in the process," he recalls.

In 2015, Zhou shifted more of his attention away from his shoe business and more toward his photography.

He further honed his skills any way he could, looking for experiences that would help him improve, including a stint on the set of a TV show, and getting the opportunity to shoot Paris Fashion Week in 2016.

"A friend of mine thought I was up for it, and she worked for a brand that was exhibiting there, and invited me," Zhou says.

From then on, he was officially a photographer, and embarked on a career behind the lens.

He went to shoot photos of giant engineering projects for the China Railway Construction Corp in Yunnan province, as well as high-speed rail infrastructure in Guizhou province using drones.

There were new challenges to overcome. "For example, there was electromagnetic radiation around the rail, so I had to be careful to avoid magnetic interference while taking pictures of the high-speed trains," he says.

"The process was difficult, but very exciting."

As his experience grew, he started trying to break away from the frame of traditional photography concepts and explore his own style.

He has mainly engaged in artistic creation and research in the field of spiritual consciousness. His works combine the views and themes of industry, urbanization and marginalization. At the same time, he also focuses on the alienation between people and a broader, homogenized culture.

In 2017, he created the Shape and Color Hatching Square photography series that highlights house color and linear shapes.

"Each house has its own unique color, which represents its unique emotions. If you stand in front of them, they each seem to give you a certain attitude and feeling toward life," Zhou says about his inspiration for the series.

"There seems to be some stories hidden in every window of a house. It fills you with imagination, of what kind of life its owners have."

Jef Van den Houte, a Belgian photographic artist, says Zhou's work conveys strong personal ideas and emotions.

"By putting his images together as a whole, they tell a bigger story than each individual image does on its own," he says.

To Zhou's relief, some of the deserted amusement parks that have come under his lens have since been repurposed for the public's benefit.

Although some have not resumed their amusement function, the encroachment of nature has found a way of ensuring a new type of visitor — animals.

"How does their relationship with the amusement parks work? And how will the relationship between people and these parks evolve? I would like to try and answer these questions next," Zhou says.

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