In 1980 Stephen Verona made his initial trip to China to direct a co-produced American-Chinese film, the first in over forty years. The film crew traveled with Chinese escorts, including an army general, from Shanghai to Suzhou and on to Beijing. Fascinated with all he saw, Verona compulsively photographed people bicycling, architecture, groups practicing Tai Chi, alleyways, and street vendors. He was devastated when financing for the film fell through and his exploration of China was cut short.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, Verona began to make paintings based on his photographs. He ultimately gave up film work to focus on painting and photography. In late October of 2014, he decided to return to China to retrace his steps and document the many changes that had taken place in the 34-year interim. In MAO to NOW, Verona contrasts his two vastly different sets of photographs of China, pointing out both the positive and negative effects of change that have taken place as the country’s economy has moved from the stagnation of the Maoist era to one of the fastest-growing in the world.
IMAGE CREDIT: (Left) Miss Hsu, 1980. (Right) Young woman, 2014. Stephen Verona. Courtesy of the artist.