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JAEZ Photography and Changing Attitudes in China’s Youth | JAEZ摄影和中国青年的态度转变

Written by (作者): Frazer Worboys
Photos by (图片来源): JAEZ Photography

 

Change in attitudes, especially attitudes of youth, are what brings a country forward. China’s Youth Day, which occurs on May 4th each year is the anniversary of the May 4th Movement, a prime example of what the youth can achieve when their attitudes change and they work together for a common goal. Although some of the means by which this goal – preventing the then ruling Beiyang Government from signing the Treaty of Versailles – were questionable at best, the repercussions of the movement were far reaching, creating the China we see today. Today we can again see changes in attitude of Chinese youth, changes that as a whole can benefit the nation’s use of soft?power, creating a better image for China the world over.

There has long been a push for presenting Chinese culture as modern yet still aware of its long history as one of the world’s longest continuous civilizations. To achieve this goal, CCTV stations have popped up all over the world, desperately craving to be accepted by the West by taking some customs and combining them – often haphazardly – with Chinese traditions. The problem with this method as it comes across as forced. This is unfortunate, as China has such a diverse history and culture that has stood the test of time despite the onslaught of breakneck?change following the country’s opening up. Many cities in China, Ningbo especially, are multicultural melting pots where a little bit of everything can be found. These changes has had a great influence on Chinese youth (Niánqīng), who I’d have to admit are completely awesome.

I don’t like to draw comparisons with South Korea and Japan, because I know there’s a rivalry between these two and China, but these countries have let their younger generations shape their international image and have allowed contemporary culture to mix with old traditions in a way that can be appreciated by young and old. Think Japan and there’s Hello Kitty, anime, manga, crazy styles. Think South Korea, think hip clothing styles, boy bands, K-dramas. These stereotypes may not be good or to your taste, but they’ve shaped the global identity of both countries. By following the trends of these young generations, you’re seeing the most contemporary and the future image of?a country. To look at China’s youth and see the trends they’ve created is equally interesting, because China itself is endearing, and it’s huge and unique culture (which historically shaped Korean and Japanese culture) is unfortunately not shown in the same light. This is unfortunate because as you’ll see throughout this issue of Ningbo Focus, there are so many unique humans not just in China, but in this city.

What’s this all leading to? Well, I got lucky enough to take part in a photo shoot with JAEZ Photography, a group at UNNC that’s leading the way in changing attitudes and styles of youth, and it’s through this group – arguably one of the most interesting student groups coming out of the university – that one can see the positive change taking place in contemporary China and how this example of soft power, if presented properly, can be a foot forward for the nation.

The Art of JAEZ Photography

Before becoming acquainted with JAEZ, I met one of their photographers, Monkey, through a friend. Monkey is an unassuming guy that wouldn’t strike you as the artsy type. After following him for a few weeks on WeChat, though, I saw his talent. His images were at once unique, edgy, yet still drawing upon the artist’s Chinese origins with a host of vibrant color dominant in each photo. Looking through the photos wasn’t enough for me, and I decided I had to get involved in one of the shoots.

Eventually, Monkey introduced me to the JAEZ Crew. The Crew is a self-organized, non-university affiliated society that focuses on fashion photography and design. It is organized by two lovely girls named Angelica and Judy. At first I wasn’t expecting much from an unaffiliated student group, but looking though their work I understood that?my assumptions had been misplaced.

Judy founded JAEZ as an online and offline promotional platform for fashion. The aim was simple: promote fashion, art, and culture within UNNC. Judy wants the platform to “encourage students to be creative, to chase their artistic dreams and to get in touch with other lovers of art”. JAEZ seems to be the best mannered and intentioned idea I have seen in awhile, possibly the best in China. The crew are a committed bunch. Lou and Vicklii, two photographers working for JAEZ, expressed this to me. Lou explained he loved the experience and being able to connect the Chinese and international communities, with Vicklii expressing her feelings of photography simply: “there’s nothing in my mind, Relaxation and randomness are the muse of creation and inspiration. After three photos and a cigarette, I’m in a daze.” The experience to them is more than about having something to add to the CV. There is a genuine emotion behind what they wish to accomplish. In the UK or Europe, there would most likely be some hidden agenda for someone on the team, but with JAEZ this isn’t the case.

The group regularly posts their projects and articles on WeChat, seeking to inspire students to think a little more about the fashion and art scenes on campus and in the city. They also sell original garments designed by the students involved with JAEZ. At the moment, there are six students from UNNC helping Judy and Angelica run the platform, organizing regular meetings at Starbucks and events linking students to groups and companies like Uber. They have managed to sell 8 original clothing collections, with their overall aim being to produce a community?for UNNC students to interact and talk about fashion and art culture within and outside China.

Keeping true to their word, Judy and Angelica asked me to gather some of my international friends for a new shoot. Many said no, but I was able to gather enough people for it to work. On the day of the shoot we arrived a little late, having just come from dinner, but when we arrived we were completely taken aback: a team of around 10 people were there for the project. Each person had a specific role and all were excited to get going. We felt a little bad being late, as Judy still had to do the makeup for the girls.

The Shoot

Nevertheless, things got going smoothly. I assumed the shoot was going to be outside in Yinzhou Park or some underground cellar. All the settings of previous shoots looked like they were shot in outer space, or at least like they’d been shot in anything but a UNNC teaching building. Low and behold, we found ourselves in a corridor not wider than 4 feet. The space wasn’t spectacular, just a simple, pristine white wall and a bunch of photographers and Judy choreographing with her iPad. It was crammed to say the least, but it added to the experience as I wasn’t?expecting to be in such a limited space. At the end of the corridor there was a single room, new, stylish table and chairs. I was wondering why we were not using this room. The feeling of “this is majorly out of our league” suddenly?faded and we were obviously more relaxed. Laughing, joking around, having fun with it. one of the internationals, Christian, instantly saw through this self envisioned facade, and pointed out that Monkey, Judy, Angelica and JAEZ have probably always done it in places like this. They’re just that good. The quality of photos is normally outstanding, and the settings are normally even better, but the realization that they did this astounded me?more. There is more than meets the eye for this group.

Taking part in the shoot, it was easy to see why their projects are indeed thought provoking explorations of contemporary culture. The shoot we took part in, titled Defamiliarization, is a great example of the group’s work. The photos consist of students from the university, both foreign exchange students and Chinese, in situations that are at once familiar and yet a piercing view of a generation in flux. Expressions are reserved, provoking, mundane. In them are examples of the acceptance of new cultural norms, yet a restriction of emotion. The lighting plays into the scenes, some more focused on the subject, more lit, while others add to the subject itself, like an homage to the?cinematography and feelings evident in the films of Kar-wai Wong and Yimou Zhang.

Yet another shoot took on a more playful theme, with girls from the university decked out in colorful outfits, multicolored wigs, surrounded by balloons. This is also a side of China, one that is playful and irrelevant, a product of changing times, uptick in standards of living, increase in cash, and a society embracing its youth.

In the photos we see a new familiarity, a new look at a distinctly Chinese experience through the eyes of the subjects. The photos are excellent and beg to be discussed by the viewer.

Changes in Perspective

The photos and the JAEZ Crew itself accurately sum up what this generation of Chinese youth is about: variety. It is rare that you have such a large number of young people – even more if you count the foreign exchange students?and expats coming in and out – in one country. The variety of people involved with a project such as this one was striking. You have people like Monkey who aren’t evident examples as someone who’s cutting edge or uber chic, but instead are super techy. Then you have people like Angelica and Judy, who completely juxtapose him, designing close and arranging them for equally playful and promiscuous photo shoots.

In the UK, its normal to know one or two people who are really into their photography. On my campus in China, I can count about 5 off the top of my head. I probably know about 3 or 4 coders too, which isn’t necessarily a normal thing to do. In Europe this vast range isn’t possible because, a) we don’t try hard enough, and b) we just don’t have a big enough population to merit such variety. One doesn’t know more than a handful of people who do exactly the same job. In China it’s a different story. There are more people doing the same job, with each of them bringing?their own unique spin on it.

Asia definitely is changing the way the world turns. Not only have Asian countries enhanced the image they show to the Western world, they’ve managed to show the world up. Recently a K-pop boy band has made it into the running to be on Time’s 100 most influential list. A Chinese singer from Shanghai is trying to make it in the States?as well. Asia is arguably cooler than hipster overrun Europe, with their fashion sense even permeating the European continent. The bomber jacket has been a staple in Asia for awhile, and now we see the likes of whatever Jenner kid is cool wearing it. Now its safe to say, with the work of JAEZ and other groups in this city, that Ningbo is a leading contributor to China’s good image around the world.

Its thanks to JAEZ Photography Studio and people like Monkey, Angelica, and Judy that people can now see how China has developed over the years not just in terms of business and economics, but in terms of lifestyle, fashion, arts, and culture. These kids may someday have to be bankers and earn money for the sake of their parent’s someday, but maybe not, as more and more people are defining themselves personally through the arts and turning it into a career. Asian culture has around the world, and its only a matter of time before this second wave of Chinese culture see come though. It may not be the image envisioned by people higher up in Chinese society, but this young generation is shaping the future of China, and its got me in a secure vice, wanting to find a way to stick?around to see how it all turns out.

 

态度转变,尤其是青年的态度转变,能推动整个国家的发展。五四青年节是为纪念五四运动而设立的,那场运动向我们证明了当青年转变他们的态度并为同一个目标共同奋斗时,他们的力量有多么强大。虽然实现这个目标(反对北洋军阀政府签订《凡尔赛合约》)的某些方式受到了质疑,但这场运动的影响是深远的,它塑造了我们今天所看到的中国。现在,我们再次看到了中国青年的态度转变,它们有利于国家运用软实力在国际上树立了一个更好的形象。

长期以来,中国一直想展现它的现代文明,但仍然不忘自己是世界上文明持续时间最长的国家之一。为此,中央电视台把一些民间风俗和中国传统杂乱地结合到一起,在全球各地大量播放,迫切希望得到西方国家的认可。但问题就在于太过牵强。这非常不尽如人意,因为尽管改革开放后中国在短期之内发生了惊人的变化,那些悠久的历史和丰富的文化经受住了时间的考验。中国有许多像宁波这样有着多元文化的城市,你可以在这些地方找到每一种事物的痕迹。这种改变对中国青年产生了巨大的影响,我们不得不承认他们是真的很了不起。

我不喜欢将中国与韩国和日本作比较,因为我知道这两个国家与中国之间有一些历史纠葛,但它们让年轻一代塑造整个国家的国际形象,并且以男女老少都能欣赏的方式将当代文化与古老传统融合在一起。说到日本,我们就会想到凯蒂猫、动漫、漫画和夸张造型。而说到韩国,我们就会想到潮流服饰、男子天团和韩剧。这些刻板印象可能并不好,也不一定符合你的品味,但是它们已经成为这两个国家的全球身份。跟随新生代的趋势,你会看到一个国家最前沿的以及未来的形象。再来看看中国青年和他们创造的趋势,这也相当有趣,因为中国本身就很让人喜欢。然而其丰富而独特的文化(从历史观点上说,造就了韩国和日本的文化)并没有充分展现出来。这很令人遗憾,因为通过阅读本期的《宁波聚焦》,你就会发现在中国,甚至仅仅是在宁波这个城市,有很多独特的人物。

那么这又会导致什么呢?我有幸参与了一次JAEZ摄影工作室的拍摄,它可能是宁波诺丁汉大学最有趣的学生团体之一,引领着青年的态度和风格转变。通过它,你可以看到当代中国正在发生的积极变化,以及这种软实力如果以恰当的方式展现,又将如何推动整个国家的发展。

JAEZ 摄影的作品

熟悉JAEZ之前,我先通过朋友认识了他们的一个摄影师Monkey。他很谦逊,不会让你觉得装腔作势。在微信上关注了他几个星期后,我见识了他的才华。他的作品乍一看独特而尖锐,但从占据每张照片的大量鲜艳色彩中还是能够看出艺术家的中国血统。光是看看照片对我来说远远不够,我决定参与一次拍摄。

最终,Monkey把我介绍给了JAEZ团队。这是一个自发组织的、不从属于大学的独立社团,主要致力于时尚摄影和设计。组织者是两个可爱的女生Angelica和Judy。一开始,我没有对这个独立学生社团抱太大期望,但是看了他们的作品后,我意识到我的假设是错误的。

Judy创建了JAEZ,将它作为线上线下的时尚宣传平台。她的目的很简单:宣传宁诺的时尚、艺术和文化。Judy希望借此平台鼓励同学们勇于创新,追逐他们的艺术梦想,与其他的艺术爱好者们相互交流。JAEZ大概是我听过的最文艺和用心良苦的想法,没准还是全中国最好的呢。JAEZ的两位摄影师Lou和Vicklii告诉我,这个团队的所有成员都很团结。Lou说他喜欢这种把中外群体联结在一起的体验,Vicklii则简单表述了她对摄影的热爱:“我脑中空无一物,放松随性是创作和灵感的源泉。在拍了三张照片和抽了一根烟后,我就神魂颠倒了。”这种经历对于她们来说不仅仅是简历上的一笔锦上添花,目标背后还有一种真诚的情感。在英国或欧洲,团队中的某个成员很可能别有企图,但是JAEZ的情况全然不同。

JAEZ会定期在微信上推送他们的作品和文章,旨在鼓舞学生多关注校园和城市里的时尚和艺术。他们也会出售成员设计的原创服饰。目前,宁诺的六个学生帮助J u d y 和Angelica一起运营这个平台,组织在星巴克举行例会,开展在学生与公司之间建立联系的各种活动。带着为宁诺学生创建一个相互交流国内外时尚、艺术和文化的平台的目标,至今为止他们已经出售了8套原创服装。

依照承诺,Judy和Angelica让我找一些外国朋友进行接下来的拍摄。很多人拒绝了,但我还是找齐了需要的人手。拍摄当天,我们吃了个晚饭耽误了一些时间。到那里时,眼前的景象让我们大吃一惊:十来个人的团队在现场作拍摄准备,大家分工明确,并且都对接下来的任务兴奋不已。我们为迟到感到不好意思,因为Judy还得为女孩们化妆。

拍摄

事情还是进展得比较顺利。我原本以为他们会在鄞州公园或哪个地下室拍摄,因为之前的拍摄场景看起来都像是在室外,或者至少是在宁诺的教学楼。但我发现我们的拍摄地点原来是一个不超过四英尺宽的走廊,不但不壮观,而且只有一面简单古朴的白墙,一群摄影师和Judy的ipad编排,出乎意料的狭小局限,不过倒也不失为一种新的体验。在走廊的尽头有一个单人房,里面摆着崭新的现代风格桌椅。我在想为什么我们不用那间房呢。难以接受的感觉瞬间消退,我们都放松地说笑起来。但是,其中一位国际生Christian马上看穿了我们的自我麻醉, 指出M o n k e y 、Judy、Angelica 和 JAEZ可能一直都是在这种地方拍摄。他们就是那么优秀。照片的质量总是这么出色,场景更胜一筹,但是让我们瞠目结舌的是他们的作品是在这样的环境下拍摄的。这个团队简直让人难以置信。

一旦参与到拍摄中,很容易就会发现他们的作品确实是对当代文化发人深思的探索。我们参与的以“陌生化”为主题的拍摄就是这样一个例子。照片上的人有学校里的中国学生和国际生,以处于不断变化中的一代尖锐的视角来表现熟悉的场景。他们的表情是冷淡的、挑衅的、平凡的。在他们身上,我们可以看到对新文化规范的接纳和对情感的克制。灯光打了起来,照在主体身上的部分特别明亮,其余的则起到补充作用,就像是在致敬王家卫和张艺谋电影里常见的拍摄手法和情感表达方式。

而另一次拍摄采用了一个更俏皮的主题,女学生们穿着华美的服装、戴着五彩的假发,被气球包围着。在一个时代变化、生活水平提高、财力增加、愿意接纳青年的社会中,这是中国有趣却又不重要的一面。

从这些照片的人物眼中,我们可以看到对独特中国体验的新认识。这些照片很出色,受到了观看者的热议。

观念转变

这些照片和JAEZ团队本身准确地概括了这一代中国青年的特点:多样化。你很少能在一个国家看到如此多的年轻人,如果把国际生和来来去去的外籍人士也算进去就更多了。参与到此类活动中的各色人物令人印象深刻。你会看到像Monkey这样并不新潮或别致,但是很有技术的人;你也会看到像Angelica和Judy这样能够与之媲美的人,在设计编排有趣多样的照片拍摄。

在英国,每个人一般会认识一两个真正喜欢摄影的人。而在我中国的学校,我能不加思索地说出五个。我也认识三四个编码员,虽然这并没必要。在欧洲,这样庞大的数量是不可能的,因为首先我们不够努力,其次我们也没有如此多的人口去创造这种多样性。人们一般只认识一堆和自己做相同工作的人。在中国就不一样了,这儿有更多的人从事同样的工作,但每个人都将自己的独特性带入其中。

亚洲无疑正在改变世界的潮流趋势。亚洲国家已经提升了它们在全球,而不仅仅只是西方国家眼中的形象。最近,一个韩国流行音乐男子团体进入了《时代》杂志全球百位最具影响力人物榜单。一位上海男歌手正试图进军美国歌坛。亚洲人绝对比赶时髦的欧洲人更酷,他们的时尚品味甚至渗透到了欧洲大陆。棒球夹曾在亚洲流行一时,现在我们可以看到英国的小孩也喜欢穿着它扮酷。如今可以肯定的是JAEZ和这个城市的其他团队的努力让宁波为中国提升国际形象做出了巨大的贡献。

感谢JAEZ摄影工作室和像Monkey、Angelica和Judy这样的人,让大家看到中国多年来的发展不仅是在商业和经济领域,同样也是在生活方式、时尚、艺术和文化领域。有朝一日,这些学生可能会听从父母之命进入银行工作,但也可能不会,因为越来越多的人正在选择遵从内心去追逐艺术的梦想。亚洲文化已经走向世界,第二波中国文化风暴迟早会到来。这可能并不是中国上层社会的设想,但是年轻一代正在塑造中国的未来反而给了我一种安全感,想看看他们到底将会带来什么。

 

To see more work from JAEZ Photography, scan the QR code | 扫描二维码查看JAEZ摄影的更多作品

JAEZ QR CODE

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