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Como2009
Como, 2009 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

Bent2009
Bent, 2009 ©Shen Wei, courtesy FlowersGallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

We cannot know the world if we do not first know ourselves and our place in it. We cannot know ourselves if we do not investigate. For New York City based photographer Shen Wei, whose collection of self-portraits entitled I Miss You Already is almost set to go to print with Minor Matters Books, revealing his process of “self-reflection and self-discovery” over the course of several years began by turning the camera on himself. The result is a collection of thoughtful and illuminating self-portraits, made in an array of environmental set-ups and using mostly ambient light. The images tend to highlight just parts of his body at a time but cumulatively, his whole self—inside and out—is revealed. Although the history of photography is rich with self-portraits, those that endure share the qualities of honesty, intent, innovation, and vulnerability. The portraits made by Shen Wei are no different. We spoke with him about his artist residency that allowed for the expansion of this work, his methods, and future plans.

Burn2012
Burn, 2012 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

Touch2010
Touch, 2010 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

How did the artist’s residency in Italy inspire you to begin/continue your work that would become I Miss you Already?
“The residency was for The Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio Center in Italy, and it was my very first artist residency. I have always been fascinated by European art, especially Italian Renaissance paintings, so I felt I was in the right place at the right time. I had the opportunity to explore numerous art museums and historic towns, and I felt very inspired to make some new work. Bellagio is a quiet and beautiful place, so it was the perfect setting for me to do some introspective thinking. At first, I was writing and making watercolor paintings, and then I started to make self-portraits. The first photograph I took for I Miss You Already was Bent (2009). I made it after meditating in a cave near where I was living. I had this great sense of freedom, openness and energy, and my motivation was very instinctual and pure. I felt very self-connected.”

Earthly2012
Earthly, 2012 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

NewYork2010
New York, 2010 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

You mention that each photograph from this series is imbued with possibility: rebellious but harnessed by boundaries, learning acceptance. Why is that? What have you learned about yourself (or your past/your wants/your desires) in the making of these photographs?
“Every photograph from I Miss You Already was made in different place, in a different mood, and for different reasons. In the beginning, I did feel a little awkward about being naked and standing alone in front my camera, but over time it became quite natural to me. I also grew to like the rather peaceful and often silent process of making these self-portraits. These photographs are like a diary to me, documenting everything: where I go, how I feel, what I do, and whom I am with, from 2009–2015. I’ve found that the more self-portraits I make, the more open I become, and the more I understand myself. This project has certainly has changed me forever in many ways, but I try to balance it and leave room for the imagination, too, so that each image is open-ended, and has a little bit of mystery.”

Past2010
Past, 2010 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

Smell2009
Smell, 2009 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

Tea2010
Tea, 2010 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

Toes2011
Toes, 2011 © Shen Wei, courtesy Flowers Gallery/www.minormattersbooks.com

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