Night Moves

Gerhard Wittenberg
Portland, Oregon

Qianmen
Archival Digital Print

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Artist Statement

Symbolism is an intrinsic component embedded in our everyday life.  At the individual level it helps us to express ourselves and at the same time, understand our surroundings by reducing to the essential, an enormity of complex stimulus and messages.  Like individuals, commercial or social organizations, institutions and countries also take advantage of symbolism to convey and represent their message or values, whether is for profit-making, national unity, power display, political propaganda, or else.  At this level some examples of the concrete units of symbolism are an advertisement board, a flag, a historic landmark, a soldier or particular colors.  Regardless of the circumstances, whether the result of the spontaneous expression of individuals, a choreograph effort, or an unintended random event, the conveyed message is always open for interpretation.  

This project is an attempt to survey, dissect and analyze the symbolism seen and not so readily seen in the “north capital”.   Except for few disclosed works, there is no acting or material rearrangement. This un-staged quality contributes to the trustworthiness of the captured material.  This is not a comprehensive effort, all the contrary; it is fragmented, incomplete, politically charged, ultra focused, and inevitable, loaded with personal but sincere biases.

This work is part of a series named “apparent contradictions.” In this particular case, the Qianmen Gate built in 1421, during the Ming dynasty, is barely depicted oppose to present time transient fabrications represented by the Motorola advertisement board - a modern conquest banner - and “the ongoing, never-ending, fiber-optic-firework.” The man at the bus stop, a time traveler through history, takes a break from his journey and wonders about the future.

This is one of the few photographs, if not the only one, in which there is a component of staging. I paid this person to sit there. Originally he sat facing the camera; he was a little disappointed when I asked him to sit looking the other way. He is a taxi driver. 

Artist Biography

I was born in Neuruppin, former East Germany and since 1999 live with my wife in Portland, Oregon. For the last five years and at least once a year, I have traveled to Beijing, China, exclusively to pursuit this project. I use a Mamiya RZ67 Pro.

All images and text copyright the artist. All rights reserved.