Zeng Yi The photographer from the hometown of Confucius On the occasion of the inauguration of the 2019/2020 Academic Year, on January 18 2020, in the Sala del Cenacolo of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Zeng Yi will receive the title of Honorary Academic.

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1979 年 10 月,在中国济南的山东省美术馆举办 过一次路易斯·海因的摄影展。海因,这位二十世纪初美国伟大的社会学家和改革者,用他手中的相机作为促使社会变革的工具,拍摄了大量的记录美国工人,特别是童工生存和工作状态的照片,引起 了美国乃至世界的极大震动,从而促使美国国会立法,禁止聘用童工。这个展览对当地的一位年轻摄 影师的摄影生涯,产生了决定性的影响,他就是曾毅。
曾毅出生于1949年1月,他是一名教师的儿子, 他的曾祖父是济南一个小学的校长。1949 年 10 月 1 日,毛泽东宣布中华人民共和国成立。一年之后他 的母亲因病去世,从小由他的祖母抚养长大。五十年前的 1965 年,他在山东省商业学校读书时,被派 到济南“四清”工作队实习,在济南一家公私合营的“永盛东”制帽厂参加“四清”运动。半年后, 长达十年的文化大革命就爆发了,1968 年曾毅毕业 被分配到山东鲁西南一个偏远的小县城,在一家商业公司做统计工作。
然而曾毅的梦想是要成为一名摄影师,因为他从小深受爱好摄影的父亲的影响。初中毕业时他父亲送给他一本吴印咸编著的《摄影艺术表现方法》, 这本早期北京电影学院的教科书,让他如获至宝,被他奉为摄影创作法则的《圣经》,令他终生受益。 1970 年他调到县照相馆,在那里他用六年的时间学习掌握了摄影的基本技能:各种拍照、暗房洗印、照片放大、修版着色等等。几年中他骑着自行车几 乎走遍了全县所有的乡镇,用一台木质老式三脚架外拍相机为当地老百姓拍照。恐怕至今不少人家中挂在墙上的相框里还会保留着曾毅当年为他们拍摄的全家福和订婚照。直到1975年他调到县文化馆后,才算真正获得了摄影创作的自由,开始了他的摄影艺术创作时期。
1979 年,曾毅被调到省城,在山东省美术馆的影展办公室工作。期间恰逢路易斯·海因作品展在美术馆举办,他参加了影展筹备和布展工作。也正是邓小平宣布中国实行改革开放和现代化大发展的政策,才使曾毅有幸“邂逅”了海因。通过海因的作品使他认识到了摄影不仅仅是用于表现美丽的风景和善良的面孔,更重要的是要去记录社会现实和推动社会进步,这才是一位摄影师的历史责任和社 会担当。
1980 年曾毅调到济南市文联,负责摄影家协会的工作。不久又担任了山东省青年摄影家协会和济南市摄影家协会主席。他在四分之一个世纪的岁月中,兢兢业业、恪尽职守,带领和激励广大会员进 步与发展。1986 年他策划组织了在中国很有影响的 “国际和平年全国青年摄影大奖赛”,引起了联合国教科文组织和中国摄影界的广泛关注。从 1990 年 开始 , 他用十年时间先后在欧美及亚洲国家举办了 “中国孔子文化摄影展”,为传播中国儒家文化发挥了积极作用。尤其是 2006 年他调到山东工艺美术学院担任美术馆馆长和教授之后,策划举办的“济南国际摄影双年展”更是在世界各国产生了广泛的影响。继而他又策划詹姆斯·纳切威、约瑟夫·寇德卡、薇薇安·迈尔等一系列国际大师的展览和学术研讨,并出版了一系列的摄影画册和影像研究文集。在繁忙的策展及事务工作之余,十几年来他的个人作品展一直在欧美许多国家博物馆、画廊展出和收藏,并荣获过许多国际奖项。


曾毅既是一位优秀的摄影家,又是一位杰出的策展人,他对艺术的贡献和策展成就是巨大的,他的摄影作品是令人震撼和感动的。作为生活在中国的知名摄影家和策展人,他获得了中国国务院的最高荣誉,他的成就被摄影界所认可。正如朱宪民先生所说:“他一面策划组织重大的摄影活动,一面勤奋创作,他的作品有很大的影响。他在中国摄影 史上是有贡献、有记录的……”。然而这位“济南人” 在生活中却是一个十分低调、十分谦和的人,在他策划的所有活动的舞台上从来都找不到他的身影,我的印象他总是在台下或幕后忙前跑后,累的满头大汗。谦谦君子,不计功名,这是我和许多与他相识的朋友的一致看法。
作为一名摄影家,曾毅紧跟着他心目中的大师路易斯·海因的脚步。几十年来他在他的家乡和偏远的乡村拍摄了大量表现贫苦百姓生活和他们生存状态的照片。他镜头中的那些父老乡亲和布衣百姓,仁爱、善良、忠厚、淳朴,一生都在守护着自己的家园。由于历史的原因他们没有受过良好的教育,但他们都倾力供他们的子女儿孙们离开故土,去城 里读书、打工或出国留学。自己却守护着那片黄天 厚土,一直居守在那片破瓦陋舍之中,与命运抗争, 与生存相伴,始终保持着那种安贫乐道的人生本色 和坚毅达观的民族精神。这是一个国家发展进程中无法避免的历史现象和必然过程,包括西方所有国家在内。
曾毅作为一个有良知、有爱心的摄影家,多年来他一直在牵挂、思念、追忆着镜头中的那些老人和孩子,并已渐渐成为他的一种乡愁。曾毅一直在试图让更多的人去关注、关心、关爱他们,并盼望尽早的能改变他们困苦多舛的命运。曾毅这种几十年如一日的的坚守和记录,实际是对人性的一种尊重。习近平主政以来,多次提出要让全中国人民脱贫致富,全面实现小康的社会发展目标。我相信不久,曾毅拍摄的这些影像,就会像海因当年拍摄的童工一样将很快成为中国发展过程中的一种历史记忆。
“摄影充其量是一个很小的声音,但有时候,一张照片或一组照片,却能引发我们的责任意识。” 尤金·史密斯,这位美国《生活》和《新闻周刊》 杂志的著名纪实摄影大师和“图片实录”的发明者, 这样说过。的确,这是一个很小的声音,但曾毅经常听到,而且发挥和运用得如此娴熟,在他漫长而又富有创造性的职业生涯和丰富的个人生活之中。
曾毅曾给我说过“士不可以不弘毅,任重而道远” 这是他人生恪守的信条。曾毅是一个有责任、有担当的艺术家,我相信他过去是这样一路走来,今后也会这样一路远去……


ENGLISH

In October, 1979, a photo exhibition of Lewis Hine in Jinan had a determining impact on the career and life of Zeng Yi, a young Chinese photographer and curator from the capital city of China’s Shandong Province. As a result of his perennial documentation of child-labor exploitation in the American cotton-mill industry, Hine, the early 20th Century American sociologist and social reformer, used a camera as a tool to create social change. Hine was instrumental in the adoption of watershed legislation on child labor laws in the United States. Zeng was born in January, 1949. His father was a teacher. As a young man, he wanted to change the world and make it a better place for all. Chairman Mao Zedong had proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. A year later, his mother died and Zeng was raised by his paternal grandmother. In 1964, while he was attending a school of business in his native province, the decade-long Cultural Revolution broke out. Zeng found himself exiled to the countryside to fulfill a tedious job as a statistician. Zeng’s dream was to become a photographer. Photography had been his father’s hobby when he was very young. He loved seeing him taking pictures and developing his own film. Upon his middle school graduation, his father gave him a book called Manifestation Method of Photography Art by Wu Yinxian. In 1970, he was transferred to a local photo lab where he learned the basics of photography: how to take good photographs, processing negatives in a darkroom and producing enlargements, etc. In subsequent years, he travelled the countryside on his bicycle with an old wooden camera and took wedding photographs, baby pictures, and family portraits. Many families still kept their family photos on their wall taken by Zeng. In 1975, he was transferred to a local culture center and that was the beginning of the creative point in his career. In 1979, he was transferred to the Capital of Shandong and joined the Exhibition Department of the Shandong Art Center.

At the same time, Lewis Hine’s photo exhibit was displayed at the local culture center. He participated in the planning and preparation of the exhibition. That is also the time when Deng Xiaoping, China’s new leader, had just announced China’s new Open Reform policies and Modernization Plan. Zeng’s exposure to Hine was enlightening. He soon realized that photography was not only to be used for the sole purpose of recording the beauty of landscapes and displaying goodwill on the faces of people, but more importantly to document social reality and confront the responsibilities and obligations owed to society at large. In 1980, Zeng was transferred to Jinan Federation of Literacy and Art Association in charge of Jinan Photographer’s Association, which he successfully operated and managed for several decades. Since then, he was promoted to be the Chairman of Shandong Young Photographer’s Association and Jinan Photographers Association where he led and encouraged the members to develop their technical skills as well as their personal growth. In 1986, he organized and planned “the International Peace Year National Photographer Photo Competition”, which has created a great impact in the industry, as well as for UNESCO. For the past 10 years starting in 1990, he has organized numerous major events, such as the “Greater China Confucius Culture and Photography Exhibit”. In 2006, he was offered a prestigious position of Chief Curator of Shandong University of Art and Design. Additionally, he was offered to teach as a professor and graduate advisor in the Shandong University of Art and Design. As a photographer, he has produced many outstanding images which has won him numerous national and international recognition and awards. Zeng’s academic and curatorial accomplishments are tremendous. As a world-renowned master photographer and curator living in China, he has received the highest honor and achievement recognition from the State Council as well as the international photography industry. He photographed the lives of poor Chinese people in remote rural areas of his native province and beyond, ordinary people who never had the educational opportunities, and whose children and grandchildren have left them behind for a more exciting urban life. “These elderly of the country have found comfort in their old nests” Zeng confesses. “They have been living in shabby homes all their lives, yet have never yielded to their fate. They have always been optimistic and content in spite of their poverty, never losing their spirit nor dignity”. As a conscientious and socially responsible photographer, Zeng has been concerned about the elderly and children through his lens. Zeng Yi has been trying to raise attention and hopes to change their hard lives and unfortunate destiny.

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