© Zihan Wei

I did nothing other than to tell them to smile

Zihan Wei

 2022 — China

About this series

The”Hot soup on the table, cotton clothes, a television set that never turns off.” 
These are the things that make up a traditional Chinese family.
My father was the youngest of three brothers, and my mother was the youngest of five children and the only daughter among them. The influence of collectivism brought conventions and habits into their lives: “Don’t be different from others.” In contrast, I was born in 1994, when the Chinese government was promoting the “one child” policy, and as is the case for many families, I am an only child. Throughout my upbringing, my parents and I faced a new kind of intimacy together, without any prior experience to refer to. We tried to understand each other and become friends.But unlike immigrant families, I left, and they remained in their hometown.
When I took photographs, my father would ask, “There’s nothing here, what are you shooting?” My mother would scold him, “What do you know? This is art.”
This conversation was interesting. Did they really understand what their daughter, who was studying in art school, was doing every day?
These photos were taken on their wedding anniversary. I first started taking them with the concept of playing pranks and role-playing the drama. When they refused to take these strange photos, I persuaded them by saying, “It’s a wedding photo.” They had never taken wedding photos in the past, so they found my words to be convincing. They thought, “Maybe this is art.”
I originally hoped to reconcile our relationship and understand each other better through this project. During the shooting process, however, a kind of intimate yet awkward relationship arose between us. Gradually, we became accustomed to this mode of photography, and it no longer felt strange, nor did we need to explain too much. I now believe that in an intimate relationship, it is better not to overemphasize mutual understanding. Relationships are best built by simply watching what one another does.


© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei
© Zihan Wei

Photographer: Zihan Wei
Nationality: Chinese
Based in: Tokyo, Japan
Website: www.xibaow.com
Instagram: @xibaow

Born 1994 in Shandong, China. Now based in Tokyo.
Graduated as master degree from Musashino Art University, major in Imaging Arts and Sciences. Currently in postgraduate school of Tokyo University of the Arts major in Inter-media Art.
Her works are mainly based on ordinaries in daily life, about the relationship between individuals and spaces, also the surroundings. To deliver the concept, She mainly focused on photographic installation to discover the balance within interdependence and mutual explanation.
Her work has been exhibited at galleries and museums in Japan and abroad.

2022 ELLE x Paris PHOTO, Awarded
2022 FORMAT23 International Photography Festival, Longlist
2021 Aperture photo prize, Finalist
2020 Project for Room 306, Okuno Building, Ginza, Awarded
2020 Reminders Photography Stronghold public exhibition “, COVID-19 Pandemic”, Finalist
2019 Kiyosato Photo Art Museum, Permanent and purchased collection
2019 Canon SHINES photography audition, Awarded (Satoshi Machiguchi)
2019 1_wall Photography Award, Finalist
2018 Imageless Dummy Photo-Zine Awards Finalist China

Solo Exhibitions
2023 “The Taste Of Emotion”, Yohji Yamamoto, ShangHai, China
2022 “I did nothing other than to tell them to smile”, Ginza, Tokyo
2022 “The Taste Of Emotion”, Canon Open Gallery 1, Shinagawa, Tokyo
2021 “Nogeyama illusion”, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, China
2021 “THE liquor store OF EMOTION”, Tokyo University of the Arts, Toride