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Sheila Zhao

The East Was Red
China   www.sheila-zhao.com

For ten years (1966-1976), the political agenda of China’s one party government, led by its charismatic helmsman, Mao Zedong, seeped into almost every aspect of the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens. So successful was the government’s endeavor that it profoundly influenced the collective visual consciousness of the time. When opportunities came for picture taking, a relative luxury at the time, most people deliberately chose to include symbols of the political narrative – wearing Mao pins for instance, or standing in front of a poster or statue of Mao. Through this series, I want to remind viewers the effect of propaganda on our modern society.
For every item in the photographs associated with the pervasive political message of the time I’ve used the color red – a color adopted and still used by the party today and one that represents revolution – to replace the content. The goal is to focus one’s attention on the way a political agenda altered the vernacular visual language of China’s history.
The title of this series is a reference to “The East Is Red”, the Cultural Revolution anthem played everyday throughout China during this time.