“I like objects that don’t have much of a style. Like patterns in colouring books, clean black lines, and primary colours. Things that aren’t trying to sell you an ideology or concept,” says Peng Ke, who calls from her home in Shanghai, where she has just closed her first solo exhibition in the city, I Have Seen Many People Although They Have Not Seen Me. “Most visual languages are so coded, so if I see things that are almost innocent, they really stand out to me.”
Peng Ke’s exhibition coincided with the launch of Salt Ponds, her first book published by Jiazazhi. The project has been ongoing for five years now, but only became a solid body of work after her friend and graphic designer Pianpian He approached her to collaborate on a book. It began in the cities where Peng’s parents grew up, and quickly expanded to other fast developing, smaller cities in China. Though they are shot hundreds of miles apart, her photographs are anonymous; you can never tell which city she is in. So the project became less about her own hometown, and more about the collective experience of Chinese people who live in these places, “because in a way, everyone comes from the same city”.
“You should get into the habit of looking above eye-level while walking,” says American photographer Brian Kanagaki. “It’s much more beautiful than looking down at the dirty street and trash.” Golden Persimmons, shot over a period of six years, captures geometric subjects in ambiguous environments; spanning over eight countries (though predominantly New York), the brutally black and white images take inspiration from the graphic, organic shapes found in cities globally.
The project began when the design director got lost while taking a shortcut in his hometown, San Francisco. “It was funny to get lost in a city that I thought I knew so well,” he says. “I ended up driving around and finding so many new things that got my mind working.” One of which was decorative trees in people’s front gardens, the original basis for the series. But after moving to New York and spending time travelling, the idea quickly evolved to focus on tying the world together by capturing its mundane similarities.
On the one hand, Catalan photographer Salvi Danés’ series Black Ice, Moscow depicts daily life in the Russian capital; on the other, it addresses more universal fears about personal alienation and isolation. The 31 year old, who was born in Barcelona and has lived in the city all his life, decided to turn his attention to Moscow after completing a project in Tokyo. “It was the winter of 2011-12 and my intention was to face another urban reality, to find common elements along the same lines as the previous project,” he says. “My first project focused on the alienating urban dynamics of Tokyo – a modern, highly connected society with new technologies and an economic and social situation admired by many nations. I wanted to transport this concept to a city with different traditions.” Danés spent almost a month photographing in Moscow, looking for busy places where he could stop and observe without being noticed. He talks of the city as being “full of companions but empty of partners”, and in most of the images, people are pictured alone. Many …