Sheila Zhao

The East Is Red

During China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the political agenda of the Communist party seeped into almost every aspect of the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens throughout the country. So successful was the government’s endeavor that it profoundly influenced the nation’s collective visual consciousness. When opportunities came for picture making, both photographer and subject deliberately included symbols of the political narrative as a way to show allegiance with the socio-political movement as well as reverence towards Mao Zedong, its charismatic then- leader’s godlike persona. Due to this pervasive trend, the images themselves became a reflection and a vessel in the spreading of Cultural Revolution sentiments. In these found photographs from the time, the artist used the color red to digitally replace any original items in the images associated with propaganda. The work hopes to place focus on the power of propaganda, its ability to alter a population’s collective mentality and how it changed China’s visual language. Red symbolizes revolution and is still the color of the Communist movement. The series title is based off of a hugely popular during the Cultural Revolution, The East Is Red.


Is a photographer living and working in China. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Indiana University. She is interested in exploring the possibilities of photography as a medium of artistic statement-making. Zhao’s work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, as well as international photo festivals.

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