2022 Photography World Overview

Time to wrap up 2022! We’ve invited five notable figures specializing in photographic art – including curators, researchers, and artists – to share their favorite artists, exhibitions, and publications from the past year. We hope our highlights, as a retrospective, offer insights into the trends and capture ideas that have shaped photography.

Cici Xiang - Official Ambassador of 2021 PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai, Founder of “C for ABC”, Partner of Star Gallery

Artist of the Year
Qiu Jiongjiong

My vote no doubt goes to Qiu Jiongjiong! Full of narratives and emotions, and even sounds, Qiu’s works impress me with the unforgettable banging sound of thick metal. Primarily a painter in his early career, Qiu has transitioned since 2007 from working on documentaries to feature films. The interplay of film, theater, and painting has nourished the artist, contributing to his eclectic mark in the history of Chinese contemporary painting/film.

P.S. Directed by Qiu Jiongjiong, Jiao Ma Tang Hui (A New Old Play) premiered in Switzerland in 2021, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival. dGenerate Films, the distributor in North America, arranged multiple screenings of the film in art theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., from May to June this year, where the film has received widespread and critical acclaim.

© Qiu Jiongjiong, A New Old Play (film still), 2021. Courtesy of dGenerate Films

Exhibition of the Year
The Pieces I Am
September 30, 2022 – January 08, 2023

An avid museum-goer, I have seen various exhibitions this year, including those in different fields and multi-media. Each show deserves due recognition for its effort, and I would’ve liked to add more to my-best list. However, The Pieces I Am has stood out. First, it was a co-created exhibition with 27 participating artists from different countries and three curators (including a guest curator). Presented by the UCCA Lab project team, the exhibition collaborated with architects, thus laying a solid groundwork for its content.

Second, given its co-created nature, the exhibition fully engaged the audience. Because we live in an era shaped and influenced by the media and vice versa, it is almost impossible to have a discourse on multi-media without audience interaction. Moreover, audience conscience had already happened during the creative process for many exhibiting artists before the show was curated. 

Third, audience interaction is always an emphasis in the realm of public art, whether online or in-person. This informative exhibition has provided a tech-friendly mutual learning experience for all.


Book of the Year
On Photography by Susan Sontag
Publisher: Shanghai Translation Publishing House

It’s been a while since I have devoted myself to Susan Sontag’s collection of essays, yet I can still recall how fond I was of reading On Photography. A must-read classic book for photography students or enthusiasts, one can’t go wrong with it. That said, my advice for those who want to take good photos is to study the works of their favorite photographers and use what’s at hand as much as possible–taking more photos. Of course, any book recommendations on video and photography are warmly welcome.

© On Photography by Susan Sontag

Han Peipei - Independent Curator

Artist of the Year
Alicia Caldera

Alicia Caldera is an artist and photographer based in Madrid. She was born and raised in Venezuela but also lived for more than ten years in Colombia. Her works touch on political and social issues related to her own experiences and identity; for instance, she reflects on migration and how it generates processes of dissolution, temporality, uprooting, and memory. During a studio visit, I learned about her work 2219, the project title referring to the distance measuring the border of the two countries. The artist explores the geo-political separation between Venezuela and Colombia in this work. Through the images depicted, we see the migration as both a physical and an emotional journey that later forges new hybrid identities.

© Alicia Caldera, 2219. Courtesy of the artist

Exhibition of the Year
Cindy Sherman: Metamorphosis
October 04, 2022 – April 16, 2023
Serralves Museum

Cindy Sherman: Metamorphosis presents a series of works spanning the artist’s career from her earliest work to the latest. The exhibition is organized in dialogue with the artist and in partnership with The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, where the institution has an in-depth collection of Cindy Sherman’s work for over thirty years. To accommodate the sizeable exhibition, the Serralves Museum has established a theatrical set based on the storyboards according to the artist’s photographs. In addition, a large site-specific photo mural is also created to give the display a different essence.

© Installation View of Cindy Sherman: Metamorphosis, 2022. Courtesy of Serralves Museum

Book of the Year
Wuhan Before Wuhan by Jorquera
Publisher: La Fábrica

Jorquera is an important figure among young contemporary Spanish photographers. Founding member of the Nophoto collective and editor of various publications, his career has revolved around China since 2002. After living in this city for nine years, Wuhan before Wuhan, was created, and it remains the most ambitious project he has undertaken to date. This autobiographical work shows photos of the city’s interior and exterior atmospheres reflecting the artist’s state of mind and his self-exploration and interpretation. During the process, he intends to break into unknown parameters and places to establish himself and grow.

© Wuhan Before Wuhan by Jorquera

Holly Roussell - Curator, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing

Artist of the Year
Pao Houa Her

I met so many incredible artists this year (just like every year)! One new voice who stands out particularly, however, is the Minnesota-based, Hmong American artist Pao Houa Her. At Paris Photo in November, I curated the section for emerging artists, ‘Curiosa’; there I had the great joy to present her photography in France for the first time. 

Pao Houa Her’s work explores the relationship between landscape, photography and the history of the Hmong diaspora. She was born in Laos and fled to the US as a young child. Her photographs are often a nod to the fictionalising function of landscape photography, which both disseminated the “American Dream” to Her’s elders, and serve the present-day Hmong diaspora as fuel for fantasies about their lost home in Asia. Images often depict the diaspora through a subtle and subversive lens, drawing attention to the aftermath of the complex colonial history, for example, portraits of elders posed against opulent backdrops of fake flowers, young people dressed in “traditional” dress in rural America, potted plastic flowers placed before a kitsch landscape backdrop. In my perspective, Her’s work exemplifies the powerful, and culturally divergent points of view that define contemporary American photography. 

Pao Houa Her exhibited her work for the first time in two major institutional shows this year – the Whitney Biennial and a solo show at the Walker Art Center.

© Pao Houa Her, untitled (real opium, behind opium backdrop), from the series The Imaginative Landscape, 2020. Courtesy of Bockley Gallery (Minneapolis)

Exhibition of the Year
Reversing The Eye – Arte Povera And Beyond 1960-75: Photography, Film, Video
October 11, 2022 – January 29, 2023
Jeu de Paume, LE BAL

An exceptional exhibition this year was Reversing The Eye – Arte Povera And Beyond 1960-75: Photography, Film, Video at the Jeu de Paume and Le Bal in Paris. This show proposed a reflection on the use of media – photography, film, video – by Italian artists of the 1960s and early 1970s. The curator, Giuliano Sergio, describes the conceptual and thematic innovations of the period this way, “photography became picture, document, report, sculpture, book, album; videos and films became allegory, projection, installation – like so many spaces enlisted to create a new field of investigation, to transform life into the metaphor of a quest.” 

With a minimal, yet efficient, exhibition design, visitors are invited to pass through a panorama of the visual experiments of the Italian visual avant-gardes of the period, organised within four themes: Body, Experience, Image, and Theater. The curators refused a restrictive framework, and they include familiar names of the arte povera such as Giuseppe Penone and Michelangelo Pistoletto, as well as other creators, referred to as “various fellow travellers” i.e. artists not directly associated with the movement but who were also active at the time. This exhibition was highly ambitious, and it offered a contemporary view of a major period of modernist avant-garde history, while subtly raising questions of historiography and taxonomy. 

© Marc Domage, Installation View of Reversing The Eye. Arte Povera And Beyond 1960-75_ Photography, Film, Video, 2022. Courtesy of LE BAL

Book of the Year
Modern Alchemy by Emanuele Coccia and Viviane Sassen
Publisher: JBE Books

“Each word is an operation of alchemy, each thought is at once premise and form for the material transformation of the world.” ——Emanuele Coccia, Modern Alchemy

Modern Alchemy is a unique book project situating two streams of creativity in a dialogue on art and nature. This stunningly produced, cloth-bound hardcover unites two leaders in their respective fields: the Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia, and the Dutch photographic artist Viviane Sassen. Each worked individually to investigate a potential form for, or expression of, “modern alchemy”. The resulting images and short texts are shared across the book’s 160 pages.

Beyond the unmatched delight of reading Coccia’s words or discovering Sassen’s latest technicolour photographic collages, I appreciated the book particularly for what it represents in regard to creative collaboration. It is a brilliant pairing that reimagines the relationship between image and text, and resituates the pages of the book as a platform for experimentation.

© Modern Alchemy by Emanuele Coccia and Viviane Sassen

Ruben Lundgren - Photographer, Curator

Artist of the Year
Julian Song

For many years now Julian Song is climbing the ladder of fashion photography in China. In 2022 his creativity is blooming with a couple of self initiated campaigns and celebrity portraits. It’s good to keep an eye out for more to come! 

© Julian Song, iDest Hotel. Image from Instagram @juliannn_song

Exhibition of the Year
Guai Li Luan Xin
November 25, 2022 – January 02, 2023
Jimei Citizen Square Exhibition Hall, Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre

The exhibition Guai Li Luan Xin curated by Liu Gang shows alternative figures of the Bodhisattva derived from Zhang Xiao’s ongoing research on folk beliefs. The little statues and photographs are amazingly entertaining, include a lot of witty details and provide us a mirror of a society in search for simplicity and spirituality.

© Installation View of Guai Li Luan Xin, 2022. Courtesy of  Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival

Book of the Year
Carpe Diem by Luo Yang
Publisher: La Maison De Z

The book Carpe Diem by Luo Yang has a simple and yet complicated design that keeps intriguing. The portraits of a fragile youth is central in her work and she makes these portraits like no other can.

© Carpe Diem by Luo Yang

Wang Yiquan - Curator, Artist

Artist of the Year
Tan Chui Mei

Malaysian-Chinese filmmaker Tan Chui Mei is the recipient of the 2022 Jimei x Arles Discovery Award for her exhibition Just Because You Pressed the Shutter?, which is invited to 2023 Les Rencontres d’Arles in France this July. This first solo exhibition explores the complexity of her emotions towards her hometown Jinmen, a county in Fujian, China. By incorporating security cameras, AI image generation algorithms, and maps into her visual expressions, Tan created a multi-textured exhibition imbued with visual metaphors. It addresses the Chinese diaspora in the past and questions the notion of possession in the present. 

Wearing multiple hats as a creative professional, Tan has exerted influence beyond the contemporary art scene and film industry worldwide. She served as a judge for the “Focus on the Future” section of the 2022 Beijing International Film Festival. She won the Best Actress Award at the 32nd Malaysian Film Festival in Mekala. Her feature film, Barbarian Invasion, won the Jury Grand Prix at the 2021 Shanghai International Film Festival and was also the opening film of that year’s 15th FIRST Youth Film Festival.


Exhibition of the Year
Minor Universes: Technology-led Emotions
December 20, 2022 – March 20, 2023
Chengdu Art Museum

Artist Zhang Xiao retraces his hometown Yantai, a coastal city in Shandong Province, using imagery devices in his eponymous project. A place that witnesses its people’s migration, separation, and reunion, Yantai has recorded the artist’s upbringing and his prolonged absence. This vicissitude strikes a chord with many fellow countrymen. Known for Yantai apple, a local brand, the apple-farming city impresses the taste buds of northerners in China. Through capturing this industry’s development and adopting visual associations around apples, Zhang puts together several projects from recent years in his solo retrospective at Chengdu Art Museum. In addition to the Apple series, the spacious exhibition hall also displays Zhang’s famous Coastline series and several photographic series in collaboration with local photo studios. Moreover, Zhang Xiao also appears in the group exhibition Minor Universes: Technology-led Emotions curated by Li Zhenhua.

© Installation View of Minor Universes: Technology-led Emotions, 2022. Courtesy of Chengdu Art Museum

Book of the Year
Chinese Contemporary Photography by Gu Zheng
Publisher: Shanghai People’s Publishing House

Professor Gu Zheng, a dedicated researcher and follower of Chinese contemporary photography, presents a comprehensive artistic view on photography since the reform and opening up period of China. This richly illustrated book has two chapters. “Phenomena,” the first chapter, indexes and writes about several vital themes in Chinese photography, including documentary, urban landscape, the body, and private photography, as well as the entangled relationship between digital technology and photography. “Cases,” the second chapter, features thirteen groups of prominent Chinese artists and photographers, from Hou Dengke, a documentary photographer, to Yang Fudong, a contemporary artist; from Xing Danwen, a multi-media artist, to Birdhead, a celebrated duo based in Shanghai. For those concerned with Chinese photography, Chinese Contemporary Photography (1980-2020) is a significant and detailed piece of literature published in the second half of 2022.

© Chinese Contemporary Photography by Gu Zheng