Same Paper’s new book Still Life reflects 13 photographers’ “beautiful and fragile” responses to the pandemic

We chat to Jiawei Liu, one member of the Same Paper team, about a difficult year and using photography to respond to it.

Date
17 November 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

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The publishing industry has been hit hard by the circumstances of 2020 but for Shanghai-based Same Paper, it’s still been a year to celebrate. “At the beginning of the year, the impact of the pandemic was a big blow to small studios like us, for we no longer have enough budget to do different projects as usual and we have to reduce the scale,” says Xiaopeng Yuan, one member of the team. “But even so, we are still creating opportunities.”

We included Same Paper in our Ones to Watch campaign back in 2018 and the studio hasn’t slowed down since, continuing to produce boundary-pushing photographically-led publications. Incredibly distinctive and always featuring artists at the cutting edge of their medium, Same Paper’s work manages to stay relevant thanks to the team’s attitude to creating work. “We are always updating our content and form, and do not want to be bound by the same rules and definitions,” Xiaopeng explains. “Whether in a good or a bad situation, we are increasingly finding our own pace and expectations.”

During what has been a difficult year, the project which has helped Same Paper expand its output and stay inspired is titled Still Life. Designed by Han Gao, the publication brings together 13 photographers – Antje Peters, Bobby Doherty, David Brandon Geeting, Caroline Tompkins, Charles Negre, Geray Mean, Harley Weir, Makoto Oono, Peng Ke, Sergiy Barchuk, Sophie Tianxin Chen, Thomas Albdorf, and Xiaopeng himself – from around the world, inviting them to use still life photography to muse on the current climate. Expanding the meaning of what a still life photograph is, the books sees it as a term to describe what we have all experienced this year; “a still moment that we are going through.” Furthering this concept, Han used a PVC material for the book’s cover “to produce a sense of adhesion and stagnation.”

Still life is the perfect medium to help capture this moment in history as not only is it reflective but it can be executed with little equipment, indoors and without a team. In turn, the imagery included in the book shows each photographer’s surroundings during lockdown, simultaneously mirroring their mental states during that time. “As a result, they present a series of beautiful and fragile images, either optimistic or depressive, faltering and drowning away from reality,” reads Still Life’s description.

GallerySame Paper: Still Life (Copyright © Same Paper, 2020)

In one series, Thomas Albdorf builds an imaginary LA (where he was no longer able to travel to complete a longterm project) and in another “Antje Peters set up a weird combination of objects to map the current atmosphere (it is surreal and difficult to describe in words).” Sophie Tianxin Chen, on the other hand, uses photos to describes interactions with her daughter, with Xiaopeng explaining: “such feelings and experiences might be very personal, but they also belong to the collective and the community. This is universal.”

While Same Paper has executed many other projects this year, including a series of comics embedded into the washing labels of clothing, Still Life seems to hold a particular pertinence for the team. “We started this project at the beginning of this spring, so the preparation and editing of this book has been a long process, where many adjustments and changes have been made,” Xiaopeng explains. Often with projects that take so long, he continues, it can be easy to lose momentum so when Same Paper finally saw the book go to print “we have to say that bringing this project into a physical entity was really inspiring for us.”

For now, the future and how Same Paper will sit within that is still uncertain, “so we dare not imagine big plans,” Xiaopeng says. “But we will absolutely continue to work on publication projects and promote the community culture that relates to it.” This will include an exhibition of the work produced for Still Life in China which the goal of bringing the work to local audiences who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them. “In the current turbulent and uncertain environment, it is encouraging, not only for us but also for the photographers who we are in cooperation with, to have this opportunity to do a down-to-earth project, involving public and people who are interested,” Xiaopeng concludes.

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Antje Peters: Windowsill, Still Life (Copyright © Antje Peters, 2020)

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Xiaopeng Yuan: Selfie, Still Life (Copyright © Xiaopeng Yuan, 2020)

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Sergiy Barchuk: Refuge, Still Life (Copyright © Sergiy Barchuk, 2020)

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Charles Negre: Deadly Pet, Still Life (Copyright © Charles Negre, 2020)

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Geray Mena: Our poison will heal us, Still Life (Copyright © Geray Mena, 2020)

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David Brandon Geeting: Quarantine Man, Still Life (Copyright © David Brandon Geeting, 2020)

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Same Paper: Still Life (Copyright © Same Paper, 2020)

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Same Paper: Still Life (Copyright © Same Paper, 2020)

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Same Paper: Still Life (Copyright © Same Paper, 2020)

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Bobby Doherty: }{poiuytre, Still Life (Copyright © Bobby Doherty, 2020)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

rbd@itsnicethat.com

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