November 25 – November 25, 2022
Nocturne is about my emotional responses to New York City. This project features composite photos of the waterfront and landscapes in New York City or straight photos of reflections of the landscape on the water’s surface. The landscape in my works is murky, dark, and far away from viewers, which means that there’s always a barrier between me and this city. The composite photographs derive from my imagination, and the straight photographs are the projections of reality. The alternation between imagination and reality function like melody and rhythm, and together they compose a nocturne that explains the name of this project and individual images. I think it’s a time for native and local people to rethink and re-understand New York City due to coronavirus. WHC
Wen-Han Chang was born in Kaohsiung, a southern city of Taiwan, in 1982. His journey into photography began in university. While doing his BS in physics, he studied light and was fascinated with laser photography and optics. Soon, he found that he loved photography more than physics, so he decided to forfeit his master’s degree in physics.
Time went on until the 2008 financial crisis, he was laid off from an engineering job and had nothing left except his camera. In order to try to see if the career of photography could be continued, he signed up for the 2008 EPSON contest, of which the judges were all Japanese, including Daido Moriyama, Mitsuo Katsui, and so forth. The first prize came when he almost gave up taking photos. Following that, more tries rewarded him with international competitions and prizes, such as PX3 and IPA.
From 2009 to 2017, he worked as a medical photographer. The work led him to a professional field that consisted of photographing procedures, such as heart surgery, and documenting patients’ visible symptoms. The work was fascinating but didn’t satisfy his artist’s soul. Therefore, he quit his job in 2017 for his true passion, abstract photography. In 2020, he got his MFA degree in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, continuing his professional track in art. Now, he is a director of photography in an international IT company.
An Introduction by Nat Trotman
Inspired by his experiences as a newcomer to New York City, Wen-Han Chang creates photographs of depopulated cityscapes that evoke a sense of dreamlike stillness. He deliberately underexposes his black and white images, sometimes combining multiple images into invented composite scenes. Nearly every image features a darkened body of water, often bearing an abstracted reflection of natural or artificial light. This recurring motif brings to mind the musical patterns to which his artwork titles allude—a connection made explicit in the accompanying soundtrack by Yun-Chun Jasmine Sun.
Nat Trotman, Curator of Performance and Media at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
A Review by Natasha Chuk
The images in Nocturne are beautiful: extremely fitting of the title given the series and the traditions of this form of music, altogether eliciting a kind of appealing sadness. The work overall references the transition from day to night, the crepuscular light, which forces you to make adjustments and, sometimes, produces an overwhelming awareness of this struggle. The metaphor and assertion of the barrier working together is strong in its promotion of the idea of distance and incomplete understanding and perception.
The musical score is a tremendous accompaniment, drawing out the sensations of longing and unfulfillment, almost like the exploration of a gap that isn’t filled with emptiness so much as an alternative experience or encounter. It takes on a life of its own, entrancing and enveloping the viewer.
The work also references a state or idea of liminality You could say the work is visually and conceptually betwixt and in-between, which encapsulates the state of your daily encounters in a city that teeters between being accepting, indifferent, and rejecting, almost simultaneously. With this in mind, your influence by Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs are apparent: they’re situated at the threshold of resolution, and they produce a quiet discomfort in their unwillingness to forge definition. This promotes the value of these liminal spaces/conditions as being and having definitions of their own, worthwhile and encompassing of a feeling or situation.
The work of the Pictorialists and the broader notion of elevating the status and possibility of a photograph beyond looking and recording also are integral to this work, encouraging the images to suggest movement, almost toward transformation. The reference to Sally Mann’s layered and mostly obsolete techniques of image-making — which infused her images with a sense of physical, emotional, and ultimately temporal texture — plays well here. Nocturnehas an effect of suspending a sense of reality, or the image’s referent, somewhere inside, unlocatable and at a remove. The result is arresting: both intimidating and extending an invitation to look closer.
Natasha Chuk is a critical theorist and writer whose research interests focus on the use of creative technologies as systems of language at the intersection of expression, interface, and perception. She teaches courses in film studies, digital cultures, aesthetics, and art history at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. natashachuk.com