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China's Outer Lands / Q. Sakamaki

March 2015

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Jamie Wellford, picture editor and independent curator

Q. Sakamaki is a master of juxtaposition and subtlety. In each of his frames, he calls on foreground and background both to tell their story. This charges his photography with movement. To read his captions about each picture is to glean how Q.’s antennae pick up visual signals that our naked eyes miss: a bored security guard at a former imperial palace; poor pupils whose town has been landmarked hanging out on a stone bridge; a Bai student with her head in a book obliviously passing political graffiti. The result is a poetic scrutiny of cultures being sidelined in China's race for prosperity.


What these signals point to are familiar to most: China’s surge to the fore of the global economy, which has it lifting millions out of poverty while causing, with the rest of the world, its own widening gap between rich and poor. Behind the noise of its success are the subjects of Q.’s photos: Uighurs, Manchurians, Bais, and Mongols—ethnic minorities who have produced some of the empire’s greatest kingdoms, towns, historical figures. Coming from different mother tongues, discouraged from participating in the mainstream, they seesaw between conformity and originality, autonomy and dependence, while witnessing their culture’s sublimation into that of a generalized Han Chinese identity.

- Anna Van Lenten



Q. SAKAMAKI was raised in Japan and moved to New York in 1986. His interest in documentary photography was sparked by the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riot in New York. His photographs have appeared in books and magazines worldwide and have been the subject of solo shows in New York and Tokyo. His work on Liberian child soldiers is in a worldwide prevention media campaign. Among the many honors he has received are four POYi prizes, two Overseas Press Club awards, and World Press Photo. He has published five books, including “WAR DNA,” covering seven deadly conflicts, and “Tompkins Square Park” (PowerHouse Books, 2008). He is represented by Redux Pictures.

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