In Between Places

  • Photography  Daniel Zhang
  • Words  Anna Sanders

To be torn between two continents is a feeling of displacement unique to those born in, but not ‘from’, their home country. A pulling between what you have always known, and the world your parents left behind – inherently yours yet uncomfortably strange.

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.”