Teresa Eng's series Self/Portrait considers the presentation of a generation through selfies.

Self/Portrait is about contemporary China and its millennial generation. This generation’s outward presentation of ‘self’ contrasts with their parents’ and grandparents’. Not only have they grown up as digital natives, they are also the first generation in China to be born into a society already transitioning to capitalism.

QQ58#41#56#, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ58#41#56#, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng

Using technology, the selfie is an idealised portrait where anything is possible. With collage and beautifying apps, wrinkles can be erased, eyes can be enlarged and skin can be whitened and made blemish-free. All of this perfection, can then be projected back onto the world.

I was interested in how this projection expresses this notion of ‘self’ in this newly individualised society. Identities are shaped through experimentations in clothing, hairstyles and poses. Underlying this self-discovery is also the need to belong. By adhering to a specific style, one can become part of a tribe.

QQ21#86#06#, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ21#86#06#, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng

I approached strangers in a commercial shopping centre in Chongqing to photograph their portrait. The immense ever-changing LED advertisements provided the lighting. Each title originates from the subject’s QQ user handle. QQ is a Chinese messaging software platform that allows users to connect online. Unlike Western user handles which can be personalised, QQ assigns each user an ID number of 9 – 10 digits.

QQ70#69#21#, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ70#69#21#, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng
LED02, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
LED 02, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng
Self/Portrait Artist Book, © Teresa Eng
Self/Portrait Artist Book, © Teresa Eng
QQ10#65#516, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ10#65#516, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng
QQ61#36#05#, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ61#36#05#, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng
QQ10#49#05#9, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ10#49#05#9, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng
QQ55#07#43#, from the series 'Self/Portrait', © Teresa Eng
QQ55#07#43#, from the series ‘Self/Portrait’, © Teresa Eng

For more of Teresa’s work, click here. 

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