In the Summer of 2015, Daniel Zhang visited Shanghai, Nanjing, parts of Shandong province, and his hometown of Chengdu, to reconcile himself with the culture he had inherited. “I suddenly realised I had very little knowledge of even the recent history of China, and not as much understanding of Chinese culture as I thought, and was somewhat disappointed in myself. I wanted perhaps, as tired and vapid as it sounds, to be ‘more Chinese’.”
Neither tourist nor local, Daniel talks of half-belonging; this thread of uncertainty woven throughout the narrative of his quiet, intimate images reveal more of Daniel’s relationship with his surroundings than of the subjects themselves: a lone figure studies a travel map, looking for a way home; a boat bobs between two shores. Images of familiar scenes crop up, the sort of beautiful landscapes that wouldn’t feel out of place in a family album; but scratch beneath the surface and there is something disquieting, and disarmingly familiar underneath. A sense of detachment, at times loneliness, that is inherent to travelling alone, and to unknown landscapes. Subjects are caught unawares in moments of reflection: alone and anonymous figures that could be Daniel, reconciling themselves to their surroundings, or lost within them.
His tentative explorations into knowing his heritage are concisely summarised when I questioned what he hoped to convey through his project, to which he responded – “The longing to be in two places at one time. But I hadn’t really thought of that before.”