A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Chang, Chien-Chi

Other Names: 張乾琦

Male
Chinese, Chinese American, Taiwanese

Chien-Chi Chang has always been fascinated by the human conditions of alienation and connection. Both are in evidence in his signature work, 'The Chain', which is a collection of portraits made of inmates in a mental asylum in Taiwan. The subjects are people who have had their bonds to the rest of society – family, community – servered. And yet, as part of their treatment, they are chained to one another, physically linked in pairs throughout their days and only unlocked to sleep. These powerful photographs, nearly life size, have been exhibited at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2001), La Biennale di Venezia (2001), and the Bienal de Sao Paolo (2002).

Less visible bonds were the subject of another project: A jaundiced look at the ceremony surrounding the union of two people. When his parents began pressuring him to marry, Chang responded by making pictures at weddings in Taiwan. The images are hardly festive, rather emphasizing alienated grooms and lonely brides. They have been collected in the book, 'I do I do I do'.

This meditation on the nature of the ties that bind a person to others and to society is a natural outgrowth of Chang's own experience of the divided life of an immigrant. The son of working people in central Taiwan, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Soochow University in Taiwan in 1984 and a Master of Science degree at Indiana University in 1990. He then became a staff photographer at The Seattle Times (1991-1993) and The Baltimore Sun (1994-1995).

Over the past decade, he has worked in New York's Chinatown, documenting the lives of immigrants there. These pictures of illegal aliens stranded on an island within an island have appeared in National Geographic magazine, as well as The New Yorker, Time and German Geo. The series earned Chang first place in the category "Daily Life Story" from World Press Photo in 1999.

That same year, Chang won a grant from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for humanistic photography and was awarded the Visa d'Or in magazine photography in Perpignan. He was named the Missouri/NPPA 1999 Magazine Photographer of the Year.

Chien-Chi Chang is a member of Magnum Photos. He resides in Taipei and in New York City.

Artist Biography, [2002]

Gallery of Selected Works