When French photographer Leslie Moquin first visited Shanghai after graduating from the National School of Photography in Arles, she was struck by the frenzied advertising plastered around the city. Noting the surreal atmosphere of this “city of contradictions”, she was fascinated by the contrast between this utopian imagery and the fast-paced lifestyle she saw around her.
Moquin studied literature and international studies before turning to photography, which has fuelled her interest in exploring ideas about society and geopolitical issues; she works in the space between documentary and fine art, and says it is the ambiguity of photography that suits her practice.
“Photography seems to me a good way to raise a question whilst leaving space for the thoughts and imagination of the viewer,” she told BJP, for the cover article of the July 2016 issue. “It is a medium that allows you to read between the lines.”
She began developing Shanghai Cosmetic during a class about creativity and globalisation at the Offshore School in Shanghai, led by educator Paul Devautour. Offshore encourages projects that experiment with new ways of thinking about and making art in a globalised economy. “The topic was really relevant in the context of the Shanghai megalopolis, where art and luxury brands walk together and advertising images are everywhere,” says Moquin.
For Shanghai Cosmetic, she decided to hijack the neon language of advertising to convey the contradictory nature of everyday experience in the city. Using bright, kitschy colours and abstract compositions, the series translates the frantic energy of the city into an uncanny mix of still lifes, nightscapes and cropped advertising images.
“In Shanghai, aesthetic phenomena seem to merge fully with production, marketing and communication devices,” she says. “Images of happiness, beauty and blossoming nature are exhibited in abundance on screens all over. However, far from these images which saturate everyday life, existence in the city seems to actually be focused on competition, efficiency, mobility, speed and performance.”
Moquin has brought the images together in the form of a magazine, where they cut into each other and disrupt the “artificial world” they represent. In doing so, they create a heady flow of imagery that harnesses the “excesses, exuberance, noises and pollution” she experienced in the city.
www.lesliemoquin.com This article was first published in the July 2016 issue of BJP, which is available via www.thebjpshop.com. Leslie Moquin has been nominated for the Prix Levallois for a new project, Hasta Abajo, which was shot in Colombia. The winner will be announced on 05 July at Les Rencontres d’Arles https://prix-levallois.com www.rencontres-arles.com