Q&A: Jasphy Zheng


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Currently, I am living in a traditional Japanese-style room, the size of 8 tatami mats. I try to live with no furniture. As a result, I become extremely aware of things one produces as a living creature: trash, household waste, fallen hair, dead skin, etc. It surprises me how much effort it cost to maintain the emptiness of the room. Are you aware of any conspiracies? I’m from China. What is it that interests you about photography? It’s ambiguity maybe. It’s a naughty medium which makes history of photography a fun course. It is entertaining enough to make me laugh! I also love that anyone could take a master photograph, yet an established photo-based artist isn’t necessarily good at taking breath-taking images. What is the worst thing about city life?
It gives you an illusion of living at the center and having easy access to everything you need. In fact, you are really imprisoned in a tiny space, like your apartment. It feels much more open and connected living in the countryside. Isn’t that weird? What part of the planet would you like to explore? Places that have different social forms, economic models, and/or value systems. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? For me, it’s easier to answer “what do you think is the least plausible of the supernatural”. I would say, the fact that the hypothesis of supernatural is brought up by humans. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Pseudoscience that has to be!!!!! What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? There are no such moments for me. I am less interested in the documentary function of a camera. Usually, to experience and be in the moment is my priority than to document it. One may think my series “Before the Storm, Under the Sun”, is a straightforward project where I documented important moments during my grandma’s last days. As a person who seldom picks up the camera for special moments, what I was doing was really hiding behind my camera as a way of denial. There are no decisive moments that reveal the story. You see images before or after those moments, images that contain no essential information about the event. The way this project was done is simply intuitive. You may say the camera was a useful buffer for me to distance myself from the overwhelming current.

Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. I honestly think I do all jobs for money. They are “jobs”, after all. If I have enough money for life one day, I would do anything for free. But I would love to be a fortune- teller or a dream commentator (someone who explains and translates dreams) for free. How often do you take other people’s advice? Do people still give advice to others these days? Is that still a thing? Before I headed to Japan, my mom arranged an appointment with a well-known doctor of traditional Chinese medicine for me to do an overall check of my health. I explained to the doctor some minor issues I had. While writing the prescription, he said to me that my lung doesn’t function well. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a totally different system than the western medical science. The lung that he mentioned is not referring to the actual organ but a “center” that human control their emotion and energy. So the advice he gave me was “be happy”. That’s probably the best advice I’ve ever received? Lol. Describe a personal hell. Wearing a ponytail in front of people I want to impress. Which living person do you most admire? They all died. On what occasion do you lie? I lie quite often. Hmmm….I lie often when I don’t see the necessity to further explain or confess. What was the last crime you witnessed?

Two drivers fighting on the street (from my friend’s post on social media). What is the best way to educate yourself? Read. What is the next book you want to read?
I plan to re-read Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art by Jennifer Doyle. I bought a kindle version and I think I am going to buy an actual copy as well. I also have the novel Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata as the side dish. What object do you want? I have a daily yearning for bubble tea which I often suppress. What object do you need? Now you remind me. A camera bag for my Sony a7rii. It’s been naked for so long that the screen is ruined.
Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Not at all. I don’t really exercise. But I can move by myself and I move pretty much once a year. Describe a cheap thrill. Korean fried chicken with a large size bubble tea, original flavor, no ice, 80% sugar. Are impulses more important than consequences? Yes, my dad would say so from an investment point of view. Which talent would you most like to have? Singing. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Get ready for my trip to Kyoto and Hong Kong. Plan out my travels in the following four months. Clean my room. Pay the rent. (As you may tell, I am using a bullet journal).

Jasphy Yiran Zheng was born and has lived most of her life on islands, of various kinds. According to Google, her Chinese name means “also, else” or “vice versa”. She gave the name Jasphy to herself, which has no literal meaning. She made life decisions based on people she encountered because a lower level of responsibility makes things easier. She achieved a BFA in photography at Rhode Island School of Design in 2016. Grad school is planned but not yet on recent agenda. Her work has been exhibited in US, UK, China, and will be in Japan soon. Having photography as her main medium for the past years, she strongly feels the limitation of image making when it comes to delivering abstract concepts or ideas, however, she is attracted to the failure of attempting to do so. Books is another medium that she is in love with, for the fact that it reaches a wide group of audience while maintaining a private interaction with them. She has an obsession with the concept of failure, ephemera, mortality and everything short-lived. She struggles with articulating herself on a daily basis and her solution is to make it more difficult for both ends. Like I said, she has a hard time communicating, however, funny enough, she is publishing a small magazine, Little Sound, that features heart-opening interviews with people meandering in the art field. She loves fat, mean cats and is less into dogs that are too cute. You can now find her in Kitakyushu, Japan. See more of Jasphy Zheng’s work — Website / Instagram.