“As a huge fan of science fiction cinema from the 90s, I wanted to apply this aesthetic to Chinese landscapes,” says French photographer, Marilyn Mugot, of her latest series, Night Project. Referencing the post-apocalyptic worlds found in Hollywood blockbusters such as Blade Runner and Total Recall, she explains that the neon signs lining the streets of Chinese cities, which “are practically no longer made in the West”, lent themselves to her recreation of these dystopian futures: “China inspired me because it is a country in full mutation on all levels – architecturally, economically and culturally."
Shooting in areas such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou to the south of the country, Chongqing in the centre, and Shanghai and Suzhou to the west, Marilyn spent her time exploring the cities in the hope of getting lost. “The purpose of this project was to be able to wander through China looking for both the reality of the scenery around me, and the surreal atmosphere I was trying to convey.” Walking alone for many hours and many days over the course of several trips between 2015-2018, Marilyn said at times she felt despair at not being able to find the right shot and feeling so far away from everything and everyone. “But despair can also have this very seductive side, it can make the things around us poetic and strange at the same time,” she tells It’s Nice That.
There is certainly poetry in her images too which, despite the darkness and desolation, showcase a raw beauty in the often empty landscapes. Cinematic compositions capture the ambient lighting which is at once warm and cold. “A red, pale neon light that brightens feverishly and weakly illuminates a silhouette can really touch me,” says Marilyn on what she looks for while shooting. “I really liked the street corners that had been forgotten by man… standing alone in front of these scenes gave me a fatalistic feeling, as if someone or something had waited for me to come.”
From a technical standpoint, Marilyn says she modified the hues in order to push the image away from reality and cause the viewer to lose their sense of time and place. But she notes that even before post-production, the original photos were already surreal in nature: “I finely adjusted the tones, lighting and contrasts, all whilst being sure not to extensively distort the original qualities of the shot… To me, that is the most important rule”
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