Sze Tsung Leong, is an American photographer located in New York City, but his origins trace to China. This is the land that has inspired his work in the excellent series “History Images” that covers “overviews” of cities, “demolitions” of buildings, “construction sites” where new buildings are being raised, the “buildings” themselves that constitute the core elements of cities, “streets” with details of elements that constructs life blood in the streets, “interiors” of demolished buildings and “figures” as the human elements that shine on the vast landscape of the city. Photographed with a large-format view camera these images contain a puzzling amount of detail that serves well to portray the immense scale of the urban change that conceal the history of individual persons lost within the large magnitude of urban structures.
No question that the images have exceptional aesthetics, but what I found most powerful in this series is the relationship of the different elements that constitute the urban landscape. The vast structures and rapidly changing cities in China serve well to the purpose of presenting the urban landscape as an evolving “organism” that both writes and erases our life and history in the urban environment. These images present both the dissolution of past and the hope of a brighter future in China.
The photographs in History Images are of histories, in the form of cities in China, either being destroyed or created at this juncture in time. They are of past histories, in the form of traditional buildings and neighborhoods, urban fabrics, and natural landscapes, in the process of being erased. They are of the absence of histories, in the form of construction sites, built upon an erasure of the past so complete that one would never know a past had ever existed. And they are of the anticipation of future histories, yet to unfold, in the form of newly built cities – [from History Images by Sze Tsung Leong]
A very interesting interview with Sze Tsung Leong was published online over at Guernica Magazine. If you get to visit his website, don’t miss the other projects, “Cities” and “Horizons” are both quite impressive.