Yen-Yin Chen

Yen-Yin Chen


by Yen-Yin Chen (Taïwan)

Part 1. Toronto The photographs was taken in Toronto in 2011. This project started by knowing some homeless people living and sleeping in street, instead of staying in shelters. They live in a lifestyle that is not easy to sustain, and each of them has their own story. Part 2. London…

The photographs in this photo essay relates to my experience of night in London. I came to London as a student in August, 2011. This photo essay was made during the first months of my stay in UK. The feeling of night is unique and always invites my to come back.

Portfolio from the Documentaire workshop with Patrick Zachmann, June 2012.

Written review by PAULINE VERMARE,
Associate Curator, International Center of Photography

To me, Yen-Yi’s most beautiful and powerful images are the ones of the homeless - the unaware subjects. His images are literature-like, reminiscent of Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and, closer to us, The Dispossessed, by Robert Mc Liam Wilson and Donovan Wylie. Yen-Yin shows a sincere respect, modesty and concern for the ones he portrays.

I am particularly drawn to image 1, the man surrounded with wild trees - beautifully composed, like a theater stage. Image 4 is also extremely well composed and moving. This body, dead or alive, at the center of the image, provokes a complete focus of the emotion. I am also deeply interested by image 5: this man – with his arresting body posture and his dark glasses in the night, seems like he is posing in a Takeshi Kitano kind of way: violently resigned.

Image 10 might be the darkest in many ways. Borderline Weegee-esque. The loneliness is immense and the feeling of death very present. In all these images, nobody is looking, or interested. Only Yen-Yi. Images 12 and 13 are very interesting, in a much lighter way. I love the mural and I love the bar scene – very oneiric. Image 14 is also intriguing, but a tighter frame, more centered, would have made it stronger. And I do like that Moriyama-like blurry cat, again, very oneiric.

The composition is very interesting, too, with its intertwined curves and straight lines. Image 2, I find more classic and lackluster. The character to the right is interesting, but stuck in a place he should not be in. Image 3 could be good but the use of the light is not the best, it is too homogenously grey. Photo 6 also suffers from too much light in the background. A darker background would have made it a much stronger image. Images 7 and 8 are also “nice but classic”. Image 11 doesn’t do much for me. Picture 9 is a good portrait, but too far from the existential core of this work. I suppose in another context I would appreciate it more: it would be a good photo for a fashion or rock’n roll magazine.

I would encourage Yen-Yin to pursue his series of portraits of the homeless and the dispossessed, and write along, or have someone write along, to establish a modern portrayal of this fringe of the society the way Walker Evans and James Agee did in the 1930’s. I like the sincerity of his posture and think that there needs to be more similar works on this subject.

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