Inspired by the documentary photography of Julia Margaret Cameron, Robert Frank, and August Sander, Adou began photographing the people and places of China’s Western provinces. The “Samalada” series depicts the Yi ethnic minority in the artist’s native Sichaun Province. The series’ title is a direct translation of the native name for Da Liang Mountain, the barren area bounded by rivers and mountains in which Adou took these photographs.
Using expired film to produce mottled, dappled images reminiscent of the most primitive of analog processes, Adou captures the Yi people’s struggle to exist and maintain their ancient customs. In depicting a time and place that is rapidly disappearing, his richly-toned photographs become meditations on life and death, past and present. Simultaneously anonymous and self-reflective, they are visual expressions of Adou’s cultural identity, and thus of the artist himself. In speaking about his work, Adou explains:
There is no difference between taking a picture
of others and myself. The camera may be pointed outward,
but whether you like it or not, it always reveals you.