World of One is about the grey areas of life, and draws much of its inspiration from the kinds of conversations people have with themselves. The work seeks to illuminate how identities are created from the sum of actions and emotions.
By positioning opposing actions or emotions together in the same frame, these images show how contradicting sides can inhabit the same personality.
All the images are shot on 35mm film with the aid of an assistant. Tang prepares all the shots on a tripod, and instruct someone when to push the button. He chooses to shoot these images on film, because the colors present in film (and absent in digital photography) remind him of pictures from his childhood. The color of the film is also nostalgic for an aesthetic of a different time, which is crucial to making the dreamlike world he is presenting seem all the more familiar.
While many of the ideas present in these images are drawn from western philosophy, particularly postmodernism, inspiration behind the visual composition of the elements is often drawn from Asian traditions, particularly those of Chinese scroll paintings and Japanese manga. In working in this way, the Tang is paying homage to both his cultural backgrounds — as an Asian and an American; this is another multi-faceted and dynamic fusion that his photos work to express. The two different cultural backgrounds that he inhabits come together (in the same way the opposing forces in his photos come together) to create something new, and something uniquely Asian American.
About the author:
Johnny Tang was born 1985 in Boston, MA. He received his BFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and currently lives and works in New York City as a Fine Art Photographer. His work has been exhibited in numerous cities domestically and abroad including: Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Seoul and Hong Kong. Recent Exhibitions include: ARTcetera 2015, and World of One at Emmanuel College in Boston.
“Invictus” (Latin for “unconquerable”) is 1 of 2 images (the other being the Stranger) on the theme of “Being alone in a crowd.” While “being alone” can imply being lonely, or seeking solitude, Invictus was created with the intent of expressing Johnny’s notion of solitude. Simply put, for Johnny solitude means standing out from the crowd.
Johnny says when he is out with his girlfriend, and she can’t decide where she wants to eat. This is how he feels inside.
This is how Johnny feels when he is on the internet. Particularly, when he is on social media.
The relationship between creation and destruction is fascinates Johnny. In order to create something, something else must be changed. Said differently, something must be destroyed in order for something else to be created. Johnny finds that the creation process, more often than not, is slow and deliberate. But destruction on the other hand, is often swift and unexpected.
When Johnny sees this image, it brings back long-suppressed memories of asking irreverent questions in class. It specifically depicts the moment just before everyone turns to stare in disbelief, at whoever asked a deafeningly stupid question.
This is 2 of 2 images (the other being Invictus) on the theme of “Being alone in a crowd.” One feels the most lonely when they are ignored by others; to illustrate this point, Johnny juxtapose the feeling of alienation with inclusion, and chose to do this by surrounding a lonely figure with an engaged crowd.
Johnny often finds that the problem with self-destructive activities such as drinking too much and/or eating too much, is that they are usually a lot of fun to do. This image was created to illustrate this conundrum. While the self-destructive activity is fun at the time, one’s only hurting themselves in the end.
One of Johnny’s favorite philosophical questions to ponder is: “How can I tell if the reality I’m seeing is real?” Or as Descartes described it, “How do we know we’re awake in real life, or just living in a dream?” As an artist, this is a question that Johnny often allude to in his work, particularly in regards to the authority society gives photographs over what is perceive as “real.”
Illusions of Progress is inspired by the feeling of being not quite sure if one’s efforts are paying off. As the great philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
This image is about setting realistic goals for oneself. It illustrates the old adage: Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.