Amiko Wenjia Li (BFA 2015) is a photographer from Shanghai currently in his senior year at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is interested in using photography to explore the fragility of youth and the realities of transitioning into adulthood. His works have been exhibited internationally including the Aperture Foundation, Filter Photo Festival, Royal Ulster Academy in Belfast and Pingyao Photography Festival in China. Li’s project Saudade has evolved from a lifelong fascination with sorrow, exploring nostalgic places and passerby in a reflection on childhood melancholy.
A psychological undercurrent runs through the quietness of Li’s images, painting a beautiful world permeated by the despondency of young adulthood. Li describes Saudade as an autobiographical photographic exploration and collaboration with places he has been to and people he has encountered. “Saudade is a Portuguese word that has no direct translation in English,” he writes. “It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or deeply melancholic longing for the presence of something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.”
Since the age of seven, Li has been collecting sentences about sorrow from novels and lyrics, captivated by the difficult aspects of adulthood. “I’ve brought the melancholy childlike mood into my photographs as a shelter,” he writes. “After years of constantly moving, I go to different places alone to search for scenes that connect me to my childhood. By presenting a collection of nostalgic places and passerby, I reexamine and recollect the reflections of my childhood memory, expressing my current understanding of life and the future.” The result is Li’s own world, a fantasy that runs close alongside reality, equal parts romantic, enticing, and unsettling.
All images © Amiko Li