Fine Art Photography Daily

Polaroid Week: Jonas Yip: Shan Shui

Shan Shui #11

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #11

 Jonas Yip is a fine art photographer and musician based in the Los Angeles area. As a photographer he embraces the wonderful potential in “incorrect” technique. He uses the unpredictable effects of homemade lenses, manipulated photo materials, misaligned planes of focus, and aberrations as a palette for photographic expression. This approach is clearly evident in his “Shan Shui” series, in which he uses expired Polaroid film to evoke landscapes. The work is informed by an ancient tradition of Chinese landscape painting. In shan shui paintings, three basic elements make up a painting: mountains, rivers, and on occasion, waterfalls. A meditative practice which can be traced to the 10th century, shanshui translates literally into ‘mountain water’.

Ancient Chinese philosophy emphasized that painting must embody not only the form but also the spirit of the subject. As the artist seeks to capture the inner vitality of nature, realism was never the main purpose. Ultimately, it’s about the artist’s
perception of an inner reality and wholeness. Jonas Yip manipulates the chemistry within Polaroids to create mountains and clouds. The results are striking as formal compositions. The interplay of shapes and colors are enjoyable at a purely abstract level. But they go deeper than that. The images work at a conceptual level both for their updated twist on an ancient art form and the beautiful process of photographic world building that Yip has devised.


Jonas Yip is a photographic artist based in Los Angeles. Born to a poet-writer-professor father and an art historian mother, he was raised in a creative environment steeped in art, music, design, architecture, and plenty of travel. Jonas has published two books, Somewhere Between (2017) and Paris: Dialogues and Meditations (2008), in collaboration with renowned poet and scholar Wai-lim Yip. A related exhibition, Paris: Dialogue, traveled through Asia and was also shown at the San Diego Museum of Art. Jonas’s work is in the permanent collections of the San Diego Museum of Art, the National Museum of Chinese Literature in Beijing, and the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA, as well as numerous private collections.

Follow Jonas Yip on Instagram: @jonasyipphotography and @jonasyip

Shan Shui #12

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #12

Shan Shui

Shan Shui is a series of evocative, abstract mountain- and cloud-scapes, organic and layered, reminiscent of Chinese Shan Shui landscapes. Placing an emphasis on expression rather than representation, classical Chinese landscape paintings did not aim to show the realistic appearance of nature but instead capture its essence and rhythm, and reveal the artist’s inner landscape. In this series I search for expression by exploring the boundaries of photographic process, delving into the photographic materials themselves. The photo-sensitive chemicals in instant film, exposed to ambient light then hand-extruded, are manually worked in stages over time, capturing movement and gesture, recording evidence of the artist’s hand, ultimately finding expression in the collision of light, chemicals, film and physical manipulation.

Shan Shui #13

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #13

Shan Shui #16

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #16


©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #19

Shan Shui #22

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #22

Shan Shui #23

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #23

Shan Shui #24

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #24

Shan Shui #29

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #29

Shan Shui #36

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #36

Shan Shui #38

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #38

Shan Shui #39

©Jonas Yip, Shan Shui #39


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