Friday, June 15, 2007
Jeff Liao - Broadway To Queens
Jeff Liao's remarkable exhibition, Habitat 7, takes us on a visual journey through the diversity of humanity that comprises the fabric of America
Twenty-five-year-old Jeff Liao lives and works on a road less traveled—an odd observation, as Liao lives in New York City and has built his first award-winning body of work, Habitat 7, around the No. 7 train that he has traveled for seven years from his home in Queens to Times Square in Manhattan. What could be more populated and traveled than the route of the No. 7 train?
Liao has already had a one-man show at the Queens Museum of Art and a gallery show at the Chelsea Gallery in New York, and he's the winner of the first New York Times Magazine contest to “Capture the Times.” A volume of images from Habitat 7 will be published in the fall, and Liao is already planning his next two projects, although he's reticent to discuss them at length. Liao possesses unending energy and attention to order and detail, two of the ongoing themes in his panoramic environmental images.
Photographer, painter, filmmaker and digital artist, Liao is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Habitat 7 was a work in progress for two years while he worked on production and postproduction, and six years from the time he first conceived the idea.
Liao's photographs are edited with a filmmaker's sensibilities, beginning with the “scenes,” as he calls them, that he finds when traveling. The intricately woven panoramas begin as sketches, continue as photographs, and then become digital assemblies that may suggest a spontaneous moment but really are a compilation of 16 to 24 images.
“My work is the opposite of the documentarian because it isn't real,” says Liao.
The place is where the photograph begins, but it's the activity within that space and the energy of the people who populate that space under the changing day's light that give his images their enormous vitality.
Traditionally, photography is about a frozen moment in time. For the documentary photographer, that moment may be random, but Liao's work isn't about documenting what is. Rather, it concerns building many moments of activity and light from the same day to make an image that never actually existed.