• @CHEN MAN12 Chinese colors Vermilion, 2011

    Chen Man

    Written by Sandra Myhrberg

    Intro by Ksenia Rundin

    Being born in post-revolutionary Beijing with the one-child policy in effect, the world’s famous female artist and photographer, Chen Man has created her own spiritual revolution by changing China’s face for the western world. Being compared with Annie Leibovitz and dubbed the “Mario Testino of China”, the artist has renegotiated the cultural and philosophical ideals of her home country established in the Western society boldly through her images giving the China’s beauty aesthetic its own postmodern identity and putting the latter on the world’s fashion scene. Seemingly, “Fearless & Fabulous” – the artist’s first solo exhibition taking place outside China – is a luminous proof of that. The exhibition opened on December 9th at Museum of Photography in Stockholm and has undoubtedly conquered the fastidious cultural world of the Scandinavian capital.

    The artist’s works create a self-speaking dualistic illustration of a new aspirational China, where East meets West in a reality balancing between the outer beauty and the inner wisdom. Furthermore, Chen, as China’s top fashion photographer and artist, has a myriad of photo shoots on her CV, starting with Dior campaigns and ending by her self-portrait for Qeelin’s Chen Man by Chen Man campaign. Her lens has virtuously captured China's national icon, actress Fan Bingbing and strikingly eternalised such celebrities as Rihanna, Nicole Kidman, Keanu Reeves and Victoria Beckham. Chen’s photographs have been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum for their permanent collection.

    Entirely, the images of Chen Man are easily recognisable as they embrace both modern post-production techniques and Eastern themes, creating an own unique fearless and fabulous philosophical fusion of pure romance, rough spirit, naked ambitions and exquisite humour.

    I have understood you started with art at an early age. At what age did you steer over to photography?
    When I was in college my major was in photography.

    I read that you were born during the time when China was implementing the one-child policy in families, do you think that had an affect on your artistic exploration?
    Off course, I was a single child. Our generation started to study really early. The thing is that I am really good at painting. My parents gave me professional training at painting. Classes to train different techniques since I was two years old. Actually my major profession is a painter and I still paint. I am a better painter than a photographer.

    Your work almost looks like paintings after post production, did you ever work with analog photography or have you always worked with the digital medium?
    I started with a series of images for an art magazine called Vision Magazine when I was in college, I made one photo per month. I have a lot of passion for the visual language, therefore I have used a lot of Photoshop and really heavy post-production since then. That is where people think I am from. My name is Chen Man, so a lot of people [outside China] think that I am a man. At that time no one used Photoshop in China, when those works reached the market. Artist and photographers were quite shocked about this series. Thus, they didn’t know wether to define me as an artist or a photographer.

    Did you teach yourself photoshop or did you study?
    I am also a graphic designer so I kind of already new photoshop.

    You also have a clothing label, how come you started to do clothing design?
    I am not a professional clothing designer but I was approached by different brands to put together a crossover collection since I am kind of a celebrity in China. I have a bunch of followers on Instagram, over 10 million in China. A lot of them are young girls and that is a huge market so the brand has chosen me as a special artist to create different kinds of products. This is my fifth year creating a collection. I like cosmetics and I also have a collab with Mac Cosmetics. The brand chose me as a first Chinese artist for their collection of limited edition of crossover products called Love & Water.

    What's your favourite camera you like to use?
    I am not a fan of the machine so I use what I have, for example Hasselblad and Canon. I have Canon investors in China.

    You were first published with a self portrait in a Chine’s art magazine that caught a lot of attention, and shortly after you were published in many international publications, do you think the rise of the internet at the time helped you gain recognition outside China as a young artist?
    Yes, could be. I was reported by different kinds of medias in the beginning such New York Times, CNN and ID.

    How is it to work as a female photographer in China? Have you felt any limitations?
    I don’t feel any limitations. I am quite casual, not really tuff as a business woman. I am concentrating on the visual language and how to enjoy it. I think it is a convenience that I am a woman. I shoot a lot of female actresses and therefore I can shoot them totally nude without any boundary.

    Are the editors at the magazines you work with in China mostly men or women?
    Most of the editors I  work with are mostly female or gay….

    Do you find that you work in a different way when you work with international clients?
    No, it depends on the country and on different people. Some really understand their brand and know what they need and they trust their choice and let me do what I want. Other brands don't know who they are yet and are trying to figure out what they want to do.
    So, could you say that you do branding in a way? Yes.

    What do you think about the beauty industry in China and do you feel that you can influence how young girls look at beauty?
    I feel like I can for example when I made a series of 12 different images for a cover for ID.
    The series is called  Motherland. I shoot young girls from different Chinese minorities with faces not typically seen as beautiful or trendy in China (bead eyes, white glass skin). I wanted to illustrate what beauty is right now in China. I shoot them totally straight, combined with 12 different Chinese colors for the contemporary backgrounds.
    Actually the fashion area at that time refused to shoot reality world in China because they wanted to be chic and fashion and more like the western world or the Korean standards. Since I am professional at visual stuff I felt I should do that. There were 12 covers from one issue. I wanted to show the imperfections so the images are actually not at all retouched. I wanted to give the audience a kind of confidence that we are beautiful the way we are.

    Is it something in particular that inspires you when you are beginning a project?
    My function is to absorb the vision. I just catch the object. So, when I get the information about the person, the image will already be in my mind.

    I heard you have 70 people working for you. How many photo assistants do you have?  Yes, it is true. I have around 15 photo assistants. Our studio is also a rent studio. It is 2,000 square metres. So we have the rental department and the post production department of 10 people. After a photo shot I give the post production a sample and then they follow the directions.

    Chen Man-Fotografiska
    Fearless & Fabulous
    9 december, 2017 — 4 mars, 2018

    @CHEN MAN, 12 Chinese colors White, 2011
    @CHEN MAN, Sex Flower 3, 2003
    @CHEN MAN, Taikonaut, 2003
    @CHEN MAN, Miss Wang Studies hard, 2011
    ©CHEN MAN, Long Live the Motherland, Beijing No. 1, 2010
        @CHEN MAN, Long live the Motherland, Beijing 5, 2009
        ©CHEN MAN, Long live the Motherland, Beijing 3, 2009
    @CHEN MAN, portrait 2
    ©CHEN MAN, Long live the Motherland, Shanghai, 2010
  • photography by JÖRGEN AXELVALL

    The Family of the Future

    Written by Mari Florer

    “The Family of the Future”

    The Tokyo based contemporary photographer Eiki Mori started to explore the themes: same-sex marriage, family and sexuality as a teenager; portraying his mother, lover and friends using his father’s camera. Today, he still does and he himself acts in front of the camera in diverse family situations. In Eiki Mori’s new Photobook “Family Regained”, launched in December, Mori, with the history of oppression of homosexuals in his mind, presents the gay family as it should have been.

    Odalïsque had a chance to speak with EIKI MORI during his latest solo exhibition entitled Family Regained at Ken Nakahashi Gallery.

    What is your exhibition “Family Regained” about?
    Family Regained is a portrait series, in which I shoot myself with my friends, acquainted lovers and young couples of more than 40 of those people in several forms of Family, including being alone. I take the pictures at their place and yard, where they are live, using the self-timer function.
    The title is borrowed from the epic, Paradise Regained by English poet John Milton. Back in time when it was a crime for homosexuals to just being in love, there were those who loved with the risk of their life. Lovers who were unaccepted of even imagining of marrying or having children. I photographed imagining The Family of the Future that should have been theirs.

    What does the word “family” means to you?
    Someone you feel infinite love for, or in a relationship with, this is “family” for me.

    What is your best photo memory you ever have experienced in your life so far?
    Ten years ago, when I met my mother in Tokyo after a long time of each other’s absence, we went to the beach. At that time, my mother was very young and beautiful, but at the same time I felt afraid my mother would disappear if I captured her in the perfect form of beauty. So, I photographed her in the shining sunlight at the beach with a disposable camera which I could not hope for quality. The pictures were insufficiently over or under-exposed, but those are still my most precious pictures, filled with my love for her.

    Is there an artist you really really like?
    Hervé Guibert, It might be laughable, as it is my selfish delusion. I somehow feel myself as a reincarnation of him, who died of AIDS at the age of 36. I may not have his talent, but I feel I should undertake what he couldn’t finish, and continue writing and shooting.

    What do you long for in 2018? Is there any undone photo project you want to fulfill?
    A new performance work with the theme of a fictitious poet, with moving images and textual work.

  • EoE - Made with Love

    Written by Meghan Scott

    In these dark days, here in Sweden, just before the winter solstice, we search for glimmers of joy because honestly, the lack of daylight can be downright depressing, the word ‘cozy’ is thrown around like an old rag doll just to keep the PMA flowing. We dream of sunshine and breezing out of the house in our light clothes with our favourite sunnies on, and if the clouds decide to part on a winter’s day for even just 15 minutes, you’re damn right we’ll be slapping those sunnies on and chasing that dream.

    Sunglasses are a staple in almost everybody’s life, we wear them on the most visible place of our bodies, our face, if we need to correct our vision, we opt for a frame or non-frame that will be part of our daily life. We look for something that is aesthetically pleasing and feels great, something we basically love. And to find a pair that is made by an truly admirable couple is a bonus. I had the chance to chat with Emelia and Erik Lindmark of EoE about their inspirational optical and sunglasses brand. This couple makes me believe in the universe, that the stars align just right and good fate exists and that’s a glimmer of joy, folks! They have a synergy that emanates out of every pair of sunglasses and specs they create. The design process from beginning to end, from the drawing board to your own face is well thought out, there is a story and a place behind each style. When you acquire a pair, you feel like you’re taken care of, mom and dad are right there, you’ve made a good decision and you feel proud. They’re made with love.

    There is something to be said about the term made with love, it’s real. The other evening I made a giant pot of borsch, I was so relaxed and focused, feeling so grateful and happy, just chopping the ingredients into a pile of little matchstick sized pieces, it was a meditation of sorts. Slow cooked, no stress, it was made with love. My four and a half year old daughter told me while she was gobbling it up that it was so good that I should have a ‘borsch restaurant’. To the average grown up it was probably pretty decent, before Stockholm I lived in New York City for seven years and cooking was NEVER a hobby, pastime or even a necessity at any point during my stay. That's just a recent example of no matter what the situation is, if we are genuinely connected to what we practice everyday, the outcome is fulfillment. We eat food to stay alive, we put on a coat to go outside, and toss on a pair of shades if it’s bright out, and then join the daily grind. Imagine if all this was always done with genuine thought, dedication, patience and love? When these ideologies are poured into something, we will feel the connection.

    People are craving experience over material items, decisions are becoming wiser, unless you’re The Scary Orange Monster, but that’s another story. Minimalism is becoming a lifestyle for a growing number of people, as we become more and more connected each day, as our “lives” unfolding on social media, we are always sending or receiving a message. We spend so much time akin to the world through the little screens in our pockets, taking in so much information, both good and bad, we are especially exposed to so much atrocious human behaviour, that we are intuitively attracted to things that involve love. We have the information, we can make educated decisions and move in the right direction towards a better world for everybody, even or especially with the algorithms.  A couple like the Lindmarks of EoE are part of the driving force to a better world, and like others on this path, their story is unique and inspiring.

    The idea of naming your glasses after towns and places in the North of Sweden and your sunglasses after Swedish beaches and resorts in Sweden is really cool, do you take a lot of inspirational trips when creating concepts for your collections?

    Yes we do! We own a house up in a small village called Ammarnäs (where the road ends in Swedish Lapland). We go there several times a year just to listen to the silence and find inspiration. It can be the Northern Lights or just a color on a stone that makes us come up with ideas. During summertime we also try to travel to different small islands in the archipelago to find inspiration.

    Are you both from the North of Sweden? Did you meet each other there?

    Yes we are, we grew up not very far from one another, but we actually didn’t meet until we were studying at the Umeå University. We were both engaged in Social Entrepreneurship and found each other both as partners and business partners.

    Ah, that is so sweet! It’s so bloody dark in the winter months, especially in the North, and in the summer months it’s basically constant sun. It seems that multiple pairs of sunglasses are a must for one who resides on such a high latitude. Have you both always been ‘sunglass junkies’?

    Haha! Yes, your right, during winter we kind of never get any daylight at all…. And then during summer you cannot sleep without dark curtains. We both did love sunglasses since it’s a necessity up here, during spring when the snow still lays, you definitely need them for the strong reflection from the snow.

    Did the idea of designing sunglasses come first or optical frames?

    Optical came first! We have bad vision and we individually automatically bought glasses every time we went abroad without really discussing it, since the range was so limited where we lived. There was a definite market for it. We wanted glasses to be an accessory and not a constraint.

    Individually, what is your favourite EoE sunglass style? And optical style? Why?

    I love our Lovvikka frame! It is perfect both as sunglasses and optical I would say, bold but still so thin and rimless, like ice.

    What sort of sustainable practices do you implement in your production?

    We use cellulose acetate, a thermoplastic derived from wood pulp, it’s the material most often used in spectacles and toothbrushes. Phthalates are chemical substances used to soften plastic, some of them are so toxic that they are banned in all toys and childcare articles. If you remove phthalates and instead use a longer curing process, you get a plastic acetate that is just as strong, it’s the environmentally friendly kind we use in our organic collections.

    Do you feel that consumers are catching on to the idea of making conscious decisions when shopping?

    Yes, we can see a big change, some years ago it was only in food, like a fairtrade coffee or bananas. Today people wants to know how a brand is working when it comes to sustainability and CSR. And I think this is just the beginning, just look at Gucci, they stopped using fur during 2017, it’s great!

    Which celebrity would you love to see wearing your designs? And which style could you see them in?

    We actually got Alicia Keys wearing our Maxida collab frame! That was a milestone, she is amazing and with good values, which is important to us!

    The Maxida Märak collab frame are a hit, love them, so cool that Alicia Keys has them, it’s like a perfect match! Maxida is such an amazing person, how was working with her and what did the design process entail?

    She is truly genuine and great! She was very involved in the design, everything from how the temple would look like, to a nose ring that came with the frame that she drew herself to look like a hoof from the reindeer.

    How inspiring! Where you drawn to work with Maxida because of her dedication to the Native People in the North of Sweden?

    Yes she stands for good values and really work towards helping the Natives in Sweden, it felt important to us to work with someone that have the nature as close to heart as we do.

    Do you have any plans in working with other gems like Maxida?

    Yes, we just do collabs with people that also stands for working towards a better future, so there will be definitely more of these engagements to come.

    How exciting, can’t wait to see. Working together as a couple sounds very fun, one must have a special bond to create in synergy, do you have any inspirational or special ‘tips’ for this process?

    Yes it is, we always say that we know eachothers strengths and weaknesses so much that we don’t argue about small things like housekeeping at home, which is nice. We also really respect each others workload, which I think is important, and we have the same goals for us and our one year old son’s future. I believe working towards the same goal is important for this process.

    If you could collaborate with a big fashion house or designer, which one would it be?

    Yes, we have one that would be a dream collab… Stella McCartney! She is working with fashion in such an amazing way, high fashion with a story, at the same time as she makes good quality with a sustainability mindset and technological development.

    Love Stella, I can imagine that would be an utterly cool collab, make it happen! What sort of time frame do each of your collections have? Do you have a certain number of collections a year?

    Yes we do collections twice a year, often more optical during fall and sunglasses during spring. Each frame is handmade and it takes about 12 months from a drawing to the frames are in the stores.

    Nice to have such care in the process. What are your carryover collections? And most popular styles?

    Almost all glasses are carryovers, it’s important for us as a sustainable brand not to do frames that are out next season. We often makes small changes like colors or details in a new material. We work a lot with materials from the North, like birche or reindeer antlers. I would say our After-Ski and Renskär sunglasses are super popular. On optical, Nattviol is a classic frame and Liljekonvalj are favourable.

    Where do you sell the most?

    Scandinavia and Italy

    The wise decision would be to invest in two pairs and call it a day,  Ammarnäs Midnight Sun
    for overcast and cloudy days and Nattviol Northern Black Matte for those sunny ass days when the sun won’t quit.

    Check out the spread produced by Odalïsque featuring EoE here.