Self/Portrait, by Teresa Eng


Self/Portrait is about contemporary China and its millennial generation. This generations’ outward presentation of ‘self’ contrasts with their parents and grandparents. Not only have they grown up as digital natives, they are also the first generation in China to be born into a society already transitioning to capitalism.

Using technology, the selfie is an idealised portrait where anything is possible. With collage and beautifying apps, wrinkles can be erased, eyes can be enlarged and skin can be whitened and made blemish-free. All of this perfection, can then be projected back onto the world.

I was interested in how this projection expresses this notion of ‘self’ in this newly individualised society. Identities are shaped through experimentations in clothing, hairstyles and poses. Underlying this self discovery is also the need to belong. By adhering to a specific style, one can become part of a tribe.

I approached strangers in a commercial shopping centre in Chongqing to photograph their portrait. The immense ever-changing LED advertisements provided the lighting. Each title originates from the subject’s QQ user handle. QQ is a Chinese messaging software platform that allows users to connect online. Unlike Western user handles which can be personalised, QQ assigns each user an ID number of 9 – 10 digits. 

Photographs & Text: Teresa Eng Website:
Teresa Eng’s observations of the traces and imperfections of everyday life act as a starting point for her work. These observations allow her to make sense of the world around her. Eng finds that the tinest of details can say just as much about the world as a vast landscape can.

Teresa Eng was born in Vancouver, Canada and is based in London, England. She received a Bachelor in Communication Design from Emily Carr University and a MA Photography from London College of Communication in 2009. 

Her book, “Speaking of scars’, was a shortlisted for the 2013 Aperture/Paris Photo First Book Award, and 2013 Fotobook festival Dummy award. 

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