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Out of Sight: the Documentary

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An official program of the PHotoEspaña International Photography Festival, "Out of Sight – the Documentary Photography of Lu Guang "will be held at the Gao Magee Gallery in Madrid from June 9 to July 30.

Lu Guang has won the World Press Photo Award twice (at the 47th and 54th World Press Photo Competitions), was awarded the Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography in 2009 and has won many other awards both at home and abroad. As one of the most active documentary photographers in contemporary China, Lu Guang possesses a unique creative experience. He began working in photography in 1980, and in the roughly thirty years since, his work has continually focused on controversial Chinese social issues, such as the natural resources frenzy in China’s western regions, drug use, small-scale coal mines, AIDS and environmental pollution, among many others. His work is a concentrated reflection of the heated issues that have arisen from China’s rapid modernization process. Most importantly, his photographic works embody a "deep respect for the truth.”

In China, much of the discussion of such concepts as "press photography”, "photojournalism "and "documentary photography "is about the photographer’s ethics and the methods behind his concern for society. Documentary photography is considered to be a topic and choice that fuses serious, in-depth investigation with photographic creation. Lu Guang has often remarked that his photography is able to reflect his core themes and intentions because it is rooted in long-term field research and documentation. In the current Chinese reality, whether it is documentary photography or photography that intervenes in and critiques society, it is all vitally important, and Lu Guang’s photography clearly achieves both.

This exhibition, entitled "Out of Sight: the Documentary Photography of Lu Guang, "presents the series that won him the Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography, on the subject of Pollution in China. Through the photographer’s lens, shocking scenes of environmental pollution from across China’s vast territory are presented in a compassionate light. Under the pressure and the halo of high-speed economic development, the environment has been subject to wanton destruction. As China has enjoyed rapidly ascending international competitiveness, it has been unable to avoid huge, disastrous consequences. More worryingly, though the publication of Lu Guang’s works has had a positive impact on environmental protection, serious environmental damage continues. The Out of Sight exhibition is built upon this warning and introspection about China’s reality, and it embodies the photographer’s courage and tenacity in continuing to document and create.

American artist and scholar Martha Rosler said that "Documentary, as we know it, carries information about a group of powerless people to another group addressed as socially powerful. "The documentary photographer must have this moral courage, as well as the patience necessary to face the public. Also, continuous documentation and creation is essential for certain themes. Unlike the seemingly endless wait for a solution to social problems, the photographer’s work is more like a "social movement, "and its means for connecting with society and reality and producing influence, especially with its directedness towards the general public, disseminated through exhibitions at museums and galleries and accompanied by public discussions, makes it especially effective as a public force, rather than a mere "generalization of the conditions of man. "What I would like to say is that if the discussion of photography is limited to an aesthetical framework, it is easy to overlook or conceal the true social setting. When faced with social problems of ever-increasing severity, the respect for and reproduction of reality may be ever more urgent and important.