b. 1978, Taiwan

Simon Chang Biography

Simon Chang is a seasoned documentary photographer born in Taiwan and living in Slovenia. Through black-and-white and colour photography Chang shares the stories of those on the fringes of society whose voices are rarely heard.

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Chang moved to Prague after graduating from the Department of Communication Arts at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei. There, in 2004, he began studies towards a master's in photography at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

Building on his early interest in street photography, one of Simon Chang's first major projects was 'They' (2004–2006): a photographic series about the infamous second ward of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague. Engaging with and photographing the ward's inhabitants—female patients suffering from depression—Chang sought to understand and relate to them as human beings, rather than document their apparent 'madness'.

This humanised approach to his subjects has become a core principle of Simon Chang's work, and it is reflected in the lack of distance between photographer and subject in his images. They are a personal interaction, not a candid shot from afar. Rejecting documentarian objectivity, Chang seeks to highlight the common humanness of his subjects and to learn their individual stories.

In the series 'Fleeing from the Dark Side of the Moon' (2015–2016), Chang responded to a massive influx of refugees arriving on the border of Slovenia—a country he migrated to under more favourable circumstances in 2010. In contrast to the impersonal objectivity of the press photographers, Simon Chang empathetically sought to capture the refugees' individual stories.

In Simon Chang's solo exhibition Shepherds and the Slaughterhouse (2020) at Galerija Fotografija, he presented a series of photographs taken between 2018 and 2019 on two trips to Kurdish parts of Northern Iraq. The Duhok Municipal Slaughterhouse in Simele is a key feature of the series, as is Hawler: a psychiatric hospital in Erbil.

Documenting the lives of the war-scarred male inmates of the Hawler psychiatric hospital, Chang found a group of individuals, like those in Bohnice, suffering from mental illness while hidden away by society. Not all gloomy, however, other images taken on this Kurdish tour captured the often overlooked warm, vibrant, and proud culture of the Kurdish people.

Throughout his work, Simon Chang seeks a common ground, challenging the viewer to consider whether under different circumstances they would be any different to the people being shown to them. Chang explained to the curator of Shepherds and the Slaughterhouse, 'Despite people's different ethnicities, religions, or colors of skin, deep inside we still have so much in common, something universal and something humane'.

Simon Chang's work has been exhibited widely among galleries and institutions in Europe and Asia. His work also features in the collections of institutions including the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; Art Bank Taiwan; and Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan.

Simon Chang Solo Exhibitions include:

Shepherds and the Slaughterhouse, Galerija Fotografija, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2020); The Left Atrium and Right Ventricle, Xue Xue Institute, Taipei (2017); Storyboard 2010–2015, Art Gallery of City Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia (2016); Evaporation, Culture Center Janeza Trdine, Novo Mesto, Slovenia (2013); Endless Journey, FNAC Photo Gallery, Taipei (2007); They/Ward 2, Velryba Gallery, Prague (2006).

Simon Chang Group Exhibitions include:

Seeing Her Through the Lens: Photography Exhibition, Soka Art, Taipei (2019); Transitland: video art from Central and Eastern Europe 1989–2009, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2010).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

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