Photography is a tool that has been used by many to interrogate and document life in a city. For the last five years, Zhuang Wubin has been researching and working on an upcoming book about the history of independent photography in Southeast Asia. FIVEFOOTWAY speaks to the independent researcher about the region’s photographers and how they have used it to keep their cities open.
What is independent photography?
I use this term to cut across all genres of photography. The photographer works on his or her own, and the project is initiated on his or her initiative. It can be any kind of photography, e.g. documentary, conceptual, contemporary, even photoshopped work.
But to define independent photography is not so straightforward. You might product a body of work about stateless refugees in the world. The first three works were not funded, but you eventually sold it. So when the work is sold, is it still independent? For me it is, because it is still created by you, and the selling occurs at the end.
After that, a non-governmental organisation may like the work and commission you to do something similar in a different country. I still consider this independent because it is something you initiated, and someone has simply funded you to take it further.