Dazed Digital


The Photography of Phillip Reed

June 19, 2012

Exploring China's contemporary architecture and its Signs of Life

  • Text by Terence Teh

In Phillip Reed's new series "Signs of Life", the UK born and Shanghai-based photographer explores our relationships with our own cities and how contemporary architecture affects our lives. "I’m interested in asking questions about how cities of today are constructed," explains Reed. "What are the underlying motivations behind their design and layout? Who or what is informing its composition? Questions you can’t help but ask yourself when walking through many cities across China." Phillip's work is both stark yet monumentous, unseen yet celebratory both with and without the city's human footprints. Check out his work across China and the UK. 

Satellite Voices: What brought you to China?
Phillip Reed: A number of things, but mainly it was the scale of the place. I’ve always been interested in architecture and the built environment. I wanted to try and grasp the global implications of the changes taking place here.

SV: What inspires you about Chinese culture?
Phillip Reed: When I first visited it was for the Olympics in 2008, having come out of London, where opinion about hosting the Games was divided, it was a refreshing change to see a place where the Olympics was so enthusiastically accepted and embraced. It’s also the depth and history of the culture and how these traces survive in todays ever globalised China.

SV: What makes you smile?
Phillip Reed: Seeing the sun after two weeks of rain.

SV: What was the first thing you ever made?
Phillip Reed: Growing up I always kept sketchbooks, I spent a large amount of my childhood living in Botswana, along with my brother we would make sketches of all the different animals and birds. We were always encouraged to explore and engage visually with the world around us, Photography was a good way of continuing that process.

SV: What do you wish you had written / created?
Phillip Reed: It’s quite hard to think of any project or thing I can say I regret not doing. I’ve never felt like there’s ever been a situation involving a clear choice between one project or another, this path or that. It’s always been a case of following your instincts and making do with whatever gets thrown at you. I think restrictions and compromise aid the creative process.

SV: Who’s work / art / music would you recommend on checking out from China?
Phillip Reed: Birdhead, a Shanghai-based photographic duo (Ji Weiyu and Song Tao) are doing interesting things. I also liked the new Ningbo History Museum by Wang Shu’s Amateur Architecture Studio. It’s construction and design involved using reclaimed materials from demolished housing along with personal memories of how it felt to experience Ningbo in the past. I’d definitely recommend having a look.

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