Wang Dong is a Chinese photographer who uses the female form as his main subject. But the models he uses in his work are always nude. This has lead to censorship issues in China. In July 2016, CNCREATE spoke to Wang Dong about his career to date and about his solo show in Shanghai.
Trained as a set designer at the Central Beijing Drama Academy, where his contemporaries included Zhang Ziyi, Deng Chao, Gong Li, it was here that Wang Dong first started using a camera. But initially, it was to take pictures of the sets that he was designing. In 2009, Wang Dong turned his hand to female nude photography.
He says that his biggest influences in photography are Helmut Newton and Nobuyoshi Araki. And looking at those two seminal photographers works it’s possible to see their influence in his work, from the staged scenes to the outdoor risque images.
Wang Dong is also a very talented painter. He has no more time for oil painting anymore as it takes a long time, but it’s still possible to see the influences of scale and size in his paintings. His photorealistic oil painting of a tiny crab, but painted on a huge 2x1m canvas, is an example of this as are his paintings of Angkor Wat.
He loves to capture his subjects in settings that let the viewer understand the scale of the setting juxtaposed against the nude female form. “Me and my wife in Cambodia in 2012 we were shooting in Angkor Wat and the government wanted to arrest us,” he tells us. Even outside China, his work has proved to be controversial.
Dong, as he likes to be called, is always looking at ways to improve and develop. “Last week I took a photography class in Beijing. I learnt wet plate (collodion) photography. Less people know that way. I want to learn the 150 years way to create work.”
So what are Wang Dong’s future plans? His response is interesting. “I will build a theatre. My studio is a theatre. I will establish not a normal photographers studio. So I will shoot my works like drama. I will set the scene and tell the story using the model. The language is the shooting.”
And will Wang Dong ever stop working with female nudes? “My plan is to travel the whole world to different countries to create my work. Maybe next year I’ll travel to Europe,” he says. He and his wife have also both got their Padi open water diving licence and want to create a series underwater, so it looks like Wang Dong will be bringing the world his unique style of photography for a while yet.