Seeking the Creative: Michelle Sijia, Photographer
How would you describe your art in three words?
Economy, fantasy, storytelling.
At only 19 years old, Michelle Sijia already understands the power photography has to document identity and to collect impressions of the world. Based in Shanghai and Massachusetts, Michelle began photographing at the start of the pandemic. Her first shots were taken using an old Canon digital camera, creating the wistful textures that permeate her work. Since then, her art has focused primarily on portraying the Chinese identity, working through large-scale and intensive projects. Though she is currently studying Studio Arts and Quantitative Economics at Smith College, MA, Michelle has already exhibited her work around the US, as well as abroad in China, Finland, Greece, and the UK. She also founded China’s first junior art investment firm 1CM Inc. in Shanghai which aims to help young artists establish their practice in the digital art market. Most recently, Michelle is working on projects that will “break conventions of how people normally comprehend Chinese photography” and aims to center younger perspectives of modern China as a new narrative logic.
Where/how do you gather inspiration?
As a photographer, I am interested in exploring China’s contemporary economy and entangle it with local fantastic stories. I am continuously inspired by paradoxical presence of popular culture elements and ambiguous symbols of globalization, mixed with our mundane lives. Through talking with dwellers, strangers, and family relatives living in Southern China to regions of north bordering Russia, I am able to have a chance to reflect on people whom I have not valued. I found that these people, who lives in a different time from the real world, and those who lives in a fast-developing city, share the same mind-set. The silent wind of time has continued to blow. The process brought me a strange feeling of satisfaction, which only a hundred stories can reveal.
What do you hope audiences retain from your work?
It is all about where we find ourselves through these images. I hope my audiences are challenged, resonated when they look at the images and see China among young Chinese through a new lens. My ongoing project titled A Hundred Stories are stories with nonlinear narratives.
Curated by Brynn O’Connor. Written by Eris Sker.