A guide to the New East

Rain down on me

Wiktoria Wojciechowska’s touching portraits of Chinese commuters in typhoon season

When Polish artist Wiktoria Wojciechowska arrived in Northeast China in 2013, it was typhoon season. She did not know the language or what her next project would be. Feeling detached from her new surroundings, the artist found solace in the faces of cyclists speeding past her in the downpour.

So she began photographing the commuters in Hangzhou and later in Beijing, transforming these mundane moments into brilliant portraits. Each of the documented expressions is different, yet each speaks volumes. 

When it came to choosing a name for the series Wojciechowska found the following excerpt from A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wieslaw Mysliwski that she used as inspiration: “There are infinitely many of these faces I carry inside myself. Conceived in short flashes. I don’t know whose, where, or when. I know nothing about them. But they live in me. Thoughtfulness, gazes, sorrows, pallor, grimaces, bitterness — they live in me, detained like photographs.” Short Flashes is a lesson in how the slightest gesture or expression can break through cultural barriers.

The series has won a number of awards including the Humanity Photo Award, International Photography Awards, Young Talents La Quatrième Image and the Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award 2015. The artist is currently working on a longer-form project from her time in China entitled Swallow, which attempts to build a portrait of the nation by following the life of one of Wojciechowska’s close friends.

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