World of One by Johnny Tang

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.”

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.

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