To say that Chinese-Singaporean fine art portraitist Zhang Jingna is an up and coming talent to watch out for might be a couple years overdue. She has actually been around in the industry since 2008, garnering well-deserved attention from her home country all the way to Europe. She has under her belt numerous awards including Photographer of the Year at the Singapore ELLE Awards in 2011, Best Beauty/Glamour Photographer at the FRAMED Awards Las Vegas in 2013, and her most recent Young Photographer of the Year at the Mobius Awards, among countless others. But what makes her so fascinating and interesting to watch is the fact that she has achieved all this commercial success and critical acclaim at the young age of twenty six.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Zhang picked up her first camera after a brief though very successful run at rifle marksmanship. At the time, she forewent a bright future as a national representative for the sport, chose photography instead, and never looked back. Since then, her vision and skill have blossomed exponentially, and her name and artworks made indisputable waves all over the industry.
Early on her photos conveyed a softness, almost a romance even, an unmistakeable femininity. She captured a certain waiflike quality in the faces of her subjects, which anchored the lightness of their surroundings.
However by the time she reached her most recent series, Motherland Chronicles, her vision and technique have acquired both visual and conceptual weight. While her early works mostly evoked airiness and openness, Motherland Chronicles, which spanned two years and forty two images, are much darker. Each image contains visual opulence which contributes to the overall heaviness of the series’ feel. Textures, finely crafted details, exquisite props and costumes, and stunning production design all make up the meat of her photos. But it is the strategic composition and meticulous lighting that are really the spine of the series. The seemingly surgical exactitude with which Zhang executes her concepts are then buried in the delicate, ethereal draw of her resulting images.
When it comes to commercial work though, Zhang exhibits versatility and flexibility, which is admirable to see from someone with such a strong and distinct personal style. Though the finish of her photos contains her trademark softness, they still stand completely independent from her personal work. This only emphasises her professionalism and adaptability in the industry. She even mentioned in a blog post that while efficient, seamless and technically perfect execution must always be practiced in both professional and personal projects, by no means should the photographer’s concept or approach be the same with both. She said that while personal projects concern you and your vision alone, commercial work on the other hand should just be about what the client wants and needs.
Indeed Zhang exhibits value for and understanding of the industry beyond her years, whether it be in the genre of fine art portraiture or of marketing. With the talent, the eye, and the attitude she has displayed, it is certain that Zhang Jingna would probably have at least twenty-six more years in the business.
Julia Escano – Shoot The Frame