In Slickness and in Wealth

ChinaFile has posted a slideshow of photos by Guillaume Herbaut of wedding photography sessions, a booming business in China where every couple is expected to display a formalized portrait in their home. The slideshow is accompanied by an essay by Leta Hong Fincher. She writes:

This, I imagine, is not the picture that Tong would want to display in her formal wedding album or on her living room wall for visitors to admire throughout her married life. But it and the other images in Herbaut’s series of what might be called “meta-wedding photos” get underneath the glossy surface of romance and fantasy that characterizes these talismans to lay bare the transactional, business-like, and at times exploitative nature of marriage in contemporary Chinese society.

Some of Herbaut’s images are sheer fun. The same bride-to-be, Tong, appears transformed in another picture, this time wearing a white wedding dress while romping playfully with her groom, Cai, before an explosion of pastel roses. The photo featuring Tong in a mustard evening gown, gazing adoringly at her groom, would make a perfectly conventional wedding portrait, were it not for the extremely wide camera frame. In Herbaut’s rendition, the wedding studio’s intimidating spotlight and production paraphernalia take center stage, casting dark shadows behind the couple, which are mirrored by sinister outlines of a photographer and two studio assistants looming large in the foreground.

Herbaut’s photographs implicitly remind us of the many young women who—out of duty or fear of being ostracized—do not question the assumption that they must marry. [Source]

Read more about marriage in China, via CDT.

February 11, 2014 12:00 PM
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