Portraits of women and men in the 20th and 21st Century
(work in progress)
“Diana Lui’s photographs bring to mind the ancient chinese symbol of harmony, the Yin and Yang, the harmony of the masculine and feminine. Her portraits are a combination of the “hardness” of the 8x10 camera format and the “softness” of her subtle portrayals.
The camera she works with is considered by most photographers of today’s digital age too difficult to use because of its bulky form, weight and its lack of mechanical flexibility and ease during a shooting session. Yet, this large format camera produces a sharpness and detail that is better than any other camera. In this sense, Diana Lui has a masculine approach, the physical and technical aspect to creating her images.
On the other hand, the portrayal of her portraits are quiet and understated. She does not use overt gestures or props, nothing that screams, rather, her images speak softly. They are subtle and feminine.
Her portraits remind me of ripples in a pond. Each portrait is a pond where a drop hits the water at the very center - the subject - then the ripples vibrate from the center and move towards other parts of the pond - the rest of the picture. The subject and his/her environment are simply connected. The environment surrounding each subject contains a minimal of detail, objects that hint only at the essential being of each person photographed. Her portraits show neither too much nor too little.
Diana’s images bring together the mechanics of her camera, the sharpness of the silver and the mystery and sensuality of the person photographed at exactly the point where the “hardness” and “softness” touch. Here, her images stop and begin to prick your subconscience like a pin, softly, slowly but not so hard that you recoil. In this manner, the viewer finds him/herself drawn irresistibly again and again to the quiet enigma of the portraits.
In the history of photography, Diana Lui’s work can be compared to that of August Sander’s portraits of the German people. However, where both their black and white portraits are subtle and realistic, Diana takes off from August Sander’s objectivity with a lyricism and sensitivity of her own interpretation. The harmonious combination of masculine objectivity with a feminine lyricism makes her work unique among the world of portrait and art photography today.
- Adam Beinash, Photo Editor, Art & Auction Magazine, New York