Eastern eye

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
To celebrate the Chinese New Year on 31 January, Photofusion Gallery is showing work by two photographers with very different approaches to the Chinese experience: Lana Wong, an ABC (American-born Chinese) who uses glass, parchment and paper lante rns toexplore her personal and cultural identity, and Keith Cardwell, a British documentary photographer whose colour and black-and-white portraits and street scenes (like Spring in Shanghai, right) are the result of nine visits to China.

In 1988, Cardwell was awarded an honorary Professorship from Guangxi University in China - working as a lecturer in fine arts for five one-month periods from 1988 to 1993. During this time, he was introduced to a number of "child prodigies" who attend the Children's Palace. His colour and black-and-white photographs are charming reflections of the seriousness with which Chinese children are treated.

A boy they call "little monkey", who not only paints monkeys and other animals but also behaves like one ("he's hyperactive") is pictured at the family supper trying to stuff as much cabbage in his mouth as he can with a pair of chopsticks. "He was only allowed cabbage," Cardwell remembers, who joined the family for the meal, "because he was competing in a running race later that day."

Cardwell was also introduced to the horrors of dog markets, invited by a colleague who was planning a feast to "help choose one of the dogs". As the photographer explains: "The Chinese associate dogs - like bears, tigers and snakes (whose blood they drink) - with strength. So to eat them is to gain their strength." One picture shows a puppy being weighed in the customary manner - hung by a wire around its neck; a small boy standing in front stares directly at the camera, as if surprised that there is anything out of the ordinary to photograph.

While Cardwell returns frequently to a country he loves to photograph, Lana Wong, surprisingly, has never visited her parents' homeland. Her mother left Hong Kong when she was 18, her father when he was 23, and they met in a New York subway station. Wongwas born in New York in 1969 and studied at Harvard before completing an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art. She explains her work as "personal reconstructions of several classical Chinese art forms: the screen, the scroll and lantern." She draws inspiration from archive material including her mother's family albums from Hong Kong, and has created new portraits "of my mother and of the only grandparent I know, my maternal grandmother, Miu Ling".

Tue-Fri 10.30am-5.30pm, Sat 12noon-4pm, Photofusion, 17a Electric Lane, Brixton, SW9 (071-738 5774) Brixton. To 21 Feb, free