The surveillance system is the observer of the city, but citizens who are observed seldom look the cameras face-to-face. If we take the surveillance system as a creature, then the camera must be the face of it, being the area equipped with the most front-end information receivers. The camera sees all of your subtle movements, and even gets your identity information via facial recognition system. You look at the camera, and it is staring at you as well, with a meaningful expression hiding behind the cold mask. However, you can never see through it and reach the thoughts of its operator, nor see the whole picture of such a huge system. This is an inequitable eye contact.
Thus, I would like to create an equal relation between people and monitors by imaging them from the perspective of portraiture. In this way, those cameras are separated from the system and are isolated from society. Cameras, which used to be tentacles of the system, are now independent individuals. These surveillance cameras are always facing my lens, with its “face” and “expression” taking up most of the area in my frame. I give them personality and emotion by exposing them with color gelatin filters. My work is not product shots or still photos any more. Instead, they are one-hundred percent portraitures. I hope to enable audiences to face surveillance cameras right in front of them, to view the shape and material of them, and to figure out their “expressions.”
Li Sun is an artist from Beijing, China. He graduated from New York Film Academy with a Master of Fine Arts in 2014. Li mainly focuses on photography, but isn’t limited to the medium.
In January 2015, Li self-published his first photography book, “04012013-07:58” in Los Angeles, California, using a series of documentary-style photographs to depict his impressions of city life. “The City View” was shot in New York in 2016. This series of photos connects the Manhattan skyline with the huge cemeteries in Queens. Since 2015, Li has been working on two long-term projects: “Overseers” by hybridizing plants and surveillance cameras, and “Beholders,” the portraiture of surveillance. Li took the “city” as his works’ axis. He says that in industrialism, a city is actually a “Panopticon.” People live and die in a city and they cannot do without it. Many of his works have discussed the guards of this prison – the surveillance system. His works have been exhibited internationally, including The 2018 Milan MIA Photo Fair, the 2016 Berlin Foto Biennale, the 4th Nanjing International Art Festival, and the 2015 Photo Independent Art Fair and Photo L.A. His work also won the 7th Pollux Awards.