Using a style known as pictorialism, Chinese artist Dong Honh-Oai was able to create a series of amazing photographs that look like Chinese traditional paintings.
Born in 1929, in Guangzhou, China’s Guangdong province, Dong Hong-Oai left his home country when he was just 7, after the sudden death of his parents. The youngest of 24 siblings, he was sent to live within the Chinese community of Saigon, Vietnam.
There he became an apprentice at a photography studio owned by Chinese immigrants and learned the basics of photography. During this time he became particularly interested in landscape photography, which he practiced in his spare time.
At 21, after doing a series of odd jobs, he became a student at the Vietnam National Art University.
In 1979, a bloody border war started between Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, and following a series of repressive policies that targeted Chinese immigrants, Dong Hong-Oai became one of the millions of “boat people”who left Vietnam during the 1970s and 1980s.
At the age of 50, speaking no English and knowing no one in America, the artist arrived in San Francisco and was even able to set up a small darkroom.
Selling his photographs at local street fairs he was able to raise enough money to travel back to China periodically to take photos of surreal landscapes, and more importantly study under the tutelage of Long Chin-San, in Taiwan.
This famous master, who died in 1995, at the age of 105, had been trained in the traditional art of Chinese landscape imagery painting, which wasn’t intended to accurately depict nature, but to interpret nature’s emotional impact.
The dramatic monochromatic landscapes created using simple brushes and ink combined different art form (poetry, calligraphy and painting) and allowed artists to more fully express themselves.