Photographer Junjie Pang tells a story of repetition, memory loss, fear and more in this series aptly titled Repetition. Inspiring this piece is Pang’s 83-year-old grandfather, whose Alzheimer’s leads him to believe he is several years younger, and frequently engaged in different situations, than he really is. This often makes him repeat several actions over and over, an idea that serves as the basis for this series. Schön! joins Pang to discuss these photos and the photographer’s plans for the future.
When and how did you discover your love for photography?
When I was a kid, my grandfather gave me his automatic film camera and I played with it like a toy. I loved the moment I pressed the shutter, and that’s probably when I got interested in photography. Then, after the release of the iPhone, I used mobile phone photography a lot to record the beautiful things around me. After that, I majored in photography at university, and it was these experiences that made me the person I am today.
What inspired this project?
This project is actually about one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease: repetition, and it was inspired by my grandfather. I lived with him a lot as a child and I had a lot of love for him, but seeing him suffer from Alzheimer’s in his later years, I felt sad that he often forgot things, didn’t recognise people around him, went over and over things. He would turn on the TV repeatedly, he thought it was still 2016, he would get up in the middle of the night to defend himself with a mop because he said someone was coming to attack him. But as I am currently studying in the UK and my grandfather is in China, I got a model to play him.
How did you select the locations for this project?
I wanted my story to be full of storytelling, like Gregory Crewdson, so I looked for scenes that were lifelike.
What emotions were you seeking to capture with this series?
I think emotion is the most difficult thing to tell; each person has their own unique emotion and understanding of the same thing, so I just want my photos to be full of stories. But for me personally, there is definitely a love for my grandfather in them.
What instruction did you give to your team to realise your vision for this series?
In fact, it was one of my master course units; I contacted the model myself, found the venue myself, found the make up artist myself. I just told the model some of the story of my grandfather and asked him to try to play an Alzheimer’s patient. I guided him in terms of body movements, expressions, etc., and I told my make up artist that I wanted him to look natural.
Long term, what are your goals as a photographer?
As a photographer, I love taking pictures of my family with my camera. I think it is full of love and a meaningful thing to do. I also hope to keep my love for life and photography in the future, and I hope to be invited by magazines to shoot for some brands so that I can shoot some models I want to shoot but are very expensive and I personally can’t afford.
What’s been inspiring you recently?
I always have some ideas, and the recent COVID pandemic has given me some new ones, such as the change in our lifestyle, the perception of people facing COVID, different cultures and the ways to deal with it.
What’s next for you, or what are you looking forward to right now?
I’m actually preparing my master project, which is an extension of this project, and I’m also looking for collaborations, any kind of collaboration. Apart from that, I’m planning to do a lot of creative work in the next three months. If you’re interested, you can contact me; I’m in London.
Follow Junjie Pang on Instagram.