The current issue of the Italian art and culture magazine Nero, sports the haunting work by the Chinese photographer Adou.
For a whole range of reasons, we at OE are always partial to a good image of a pig on the cover. Why? Well as the popular saying goes, it’s complicated. But, amongst the various other reasons, images of our porcine friends often become powerful canvases for projection. For a start the pig is something of an ambivalent subject for anthropomorphic musing. The pig can be an ideal subject for our soft fuzzy feelings as we home in on it’s charming qualities. And yet, perhaps even locked into our genetic memory, we are acutely aware that the pig, amongst all domesticated animals, poses special risks.
We a frequently reminded by the popular repetition of folklore attributed to cannibals of Papua new Guinea that these selfsame devourers of human flesh refer to mankind as ‘long pigs’ and that allegedly human flesh is the closest in taste and texture to pork. Naturally this might be a reason that we would identity with poor porky pig but it simultaneously carries with it an implicit anxiety; a reminder of our own mortality. Furthermore, the threats posed by pigs to human beings through infection never quite seem to disappear from our consciousness. On a more practical level, for example, this may account for the kosher and halal taboos upon the eating of pork, the pig’s meat being particularly unsafe for the human digestive tract in hot desert climates. Or as we have seen all too frequently in recent years with various swine flu outbreaks, biological similarities between the pig and humans have made it one of the domesticated animals most likely to produce a terrible zoonosis to which human beings fall prey.
But, perhaps it’s even darker than that. Do we tap into some ancient knowledge that the pig – a bit like us- for all of its cute and cuddly attributes can be something of a monster, even to its own kind. Numerous European medieval cities, for example, had laws expressly forbidding the driving of pigs to market through their streets. These came about when it was realised that pigs driven through the narrow muddy streets en masse were not only not averse to trampling small children to death, but would also didn’t mind trying to eat the dead kiddies too.
Adou’s evocative image of the lone pig in the desolate landscape is not only a haunting one, but a telling one that captures the complex relationship between humans and pigs in his native China. The pig and all its properties is, effectively, the thing that stands between starvation and abject poverty for the local population living in an unforgiving terrain.
Adou was born in Mianyang in Sichuan province and pursued a successful career as a creative director in advertising alongside his work as a documentary photographer. Photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, August Sander and Sally Mann heavily influenced his practice with regard to the latter. He is primarily known for his evocative images of the places and people of China less frequently depicted in imagery of Chinese culture, for example, the Yi ethnic minority that inhabit a small region of his home province.
His elegiac images have been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including the Grand Prize of Japan’s MIO International Young Photographers Competition and the KLM Paul Huf Award in the Netherlands.