Post-Truth: Mengting Zhou (MFA Photo ’17)

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Mengting (Matilda) Zhou’s work explores the invisible barrier among people of different social classes. Such intangible isolation is considered as the psychological distance between people. In Matilda’s work, be it human portraits or city landscapes, there is always a deep undercurrent of feeling, which makes most pictures neither vivid nor visually impacting at the first glance. However, standing in front of the works, the work tries to prove that in reality, such isolation is also a sense of security with self-defence.

What is the concept behind your thesis?

MZ: This set of works is named as In the Room Series 4, the forth part of In the Room series that I started since 2015. The original idea is to enter different people’s room and capture the natural moment when they are in their private space. After I completed Series 1, I decided to have deeper reflection and further creation on this work. During my endeavor with Series 2 and 3, gradually I realized that it is not enough to just focus on the people in the physical room but the concept of “room” extends beyond the physical space but the physiological cell that people set up to keep themselves away from others. I use a totally different view to start In the Room Series 4. I choose two metro lines, line 4 and line 7, to work on my project, for these two lines span across my two years life in New York. My first home in New York was in 52 Woodside, Queens, which is on Line 7’s route from 34th St to Flushing. Later on I moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the terminal station of Line 4. These two metro lines go across most part of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens of New York City. I try to map my walk along the metro lines with my camera. This city-hiking way is not simply to picture whatever I saw on my way. Instead, walking under New York City’s burning summer sun, I have to focus strongly enough looking for suitable subjects to forget the tiredness and the chocking heat. This uncomfortable and never relaxing shooting exercise is a great challenge to one’s dedication and devotion, which means to me not only the outcome but also pilgrimage and a devotional performance.

What are some of your inspiration sources and how does this relate to your production processes?

MZ: My work is much influenced by Documentary photographers who record the social changes in their pictures in a documentary way. Examples include the photo series of the social phenomenon during the great recession shot by Walker Evans for FSA, pictures of Chinese people in the 90s by Chinese photographer Mo Yi, and the ” American ” by Robert Frank etc. I feel much impressed by their professionalism in their works in every aspect such as the technique used to capture the image and present the texture, or the right moment chosen by the photographer. These are all the classic cases that I could learn a lot from. The picture behind the old man walking alone was taken in Manhattan. His jeans and hat seem to suggest his high spirits of his youth and the sweeping memory of west cowboys. His appearance presents a typical American Labor worker image, which reminds me of 1920s to 1930s when photography became mature. A symbolic documentary photography event was organized by FSA to record the change of society by inviting many photographers to picture workers.




POST-TRUTH is on view at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design from August 10 – September 6, 2017. The Opening Reception will be on August 24, 6PM-8PM. Michael DiFeo, Arash Fewzee, Annaleena Keso, Charles Park, Christian Padron, Sebastian Perinotti, Rowena Rubio, Abhishek Sharma, Sarah Wang, Jinming Zhong, and Mengting Zhou (Matilda).

For more information about the thesis exhibition, please visit


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