In discussions about racism, discrimination and exclusion of ethnic minorities, people of Asian descent are rarely mentioned, let alone their voices heard in those discussions. It is therefore good that the media now reports about Asians who are being discriminated during the COVID-19 pandemic. This hate against Asians was there long before this pandemic, but now people apparently feel justified to express these emotions, which Tanis himself also experienced recently.
As a baby Tanis came to the Netherlands and grew up with his adoptive parents. He grew up in a white neighborhood and went to white schools. His Asian appearance was always different from that of his parents, family, classmates and the people he saw on TV. Tanis knows what it's like to be discriminated against because he is not white. As a teen he went consciously looking for people with whom he could identify, but there weren't any role models who looked like him. He has always been very aware of being different.
Many of Aram Tanis photo series contain images of advertisements with beautiful people and combines these with images of misfits and people who do not meet this beauty standard.
For It Was Never Personal Aram Tanis photographed torn, mouldy and discarded advertisement posters, that still have elements of this ideal of beauty companies wanted to sell, but at the same time they show the decay, the dirty and the ugly of reality. Now during the corona crisis, the posters are no longer replaced in a number of places, so the decay goes further than usual.
It Was Never Personal
Putting Back The Pieces
Aram Tanis mingles different mediums such as video, photography and sculpture. He explores themes of isolation, standardization, the mass-produced and sexuality. In his installations and books, Aram constructs a counter-narrative to media stereotypes and aims to make visible what’s generally discarded. Interested in contrasts, between poor and rich, tradition and modernity, his subjects range from urban landscapes to daily life objects, often showing a fascination for the Asian continent.
Aram Tanis, who studied in Seoul and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and de Ateliers in the Netherlands, is a photographer who searches for more truthful and provocative images than those usually composed for mass media. The cities of Asia - Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo - have been his usual locations although he plans to work more in The United States in the future. His photographs comments on the anonymity of contemporary Asian life and juxtaposes that body of work with another that is focused on the specific, aberrant details of urbanization and industrialization, discovering another kind of beauty. Isolation amidst standardization and mass production are recurrent themes as evidenced by his image of nearly identical high-rise buildings that extend far into the background with no indication of sky and little of human life. His curious picture of two young girls in a shop window, heads touching, is poignant, their reality and individuality vivid in juxtaposition to the man-nequin whose absent head theirs are replacing.