Xiaoyan Men

A composite life/actual life—using opacity as an artistic strategy in a case study of the life of village women in china

The thousands of composite family photos, each consisting of images of family members that were often taken at different times, raise the question of the status of village women and the use of photography in contemporary China. When family members have been dispersed, the composite photo holds the concept of the family together. Village people represent the Chinese culture at the basic level as they have always been the majority of population, and the roles of the village women best indicate the changes in the society. The aim of this project was to test the strategy of opacity in photography practice in studying social issues, i.e. the role of village women, how close photography can come to actual life. A diversity of village women who remain in the countryside was photographed. Rather than identifying them with any fixed categories, the field research focused on the actual life of village women. Opacity can be a strategy during documenting as it is not about clarity or understanding the subject but about being open-minded and avoiding preconceived ideas, which is crucial for knowledge production.

Key words: composite, photography, village women, opacity, documentary