Shanghai artist Coca Dai’s series Judy Zhu 2008-2015 began as daily snapshots of his girlfriend. Over time, it developed into an intimate narrative on contemporary womanhood. Made through eight years and entirely using film cameras, the black and white and color photographs share an unadulterated directness, with each image inviting us into a private moment as it unfolds between two lovers confronting each other either side of a camera. In this way, Judy Zhui s an in-depth record of a maturing relationship, as this couple grows together from being young teenage lovers into adulthood, and then become parents in contemporary China.
The series, comprised almost exclusively of portraits of Judy Zhu – a picture space she shares only on occasion with their son and a friend or two – combines to an accumulation of intimacy, anger, happiness and boredom that come before us, one after another, as the emotions were lived and experienced in each moment captured. The series naturally contains glimpses of less "photographic" moments, such as Judy eating dinner, riding the elevator, sleeping, or returning from a night out. In each instance, where Coca Dai as the photographer is both participant and observer, his images follow a tradition of uncompromisingly honest photography, full of veracity and passion, and at times cruel in its authenticity, by artists such as Nan Goldin or Wolfgang Tillmans. Judy Zhu follows this close focus on an intimate subject, from the longing gaze of loving eyes, to the palor of sickness on the brow and the heat of frustration flushing cheeks. As such, the story of Judy Zhu poignantly reflects the trials, ecstasies, and melancholy experienced by women today, be that as individuals, as a family member, or through social interactions, and in terms of personality, sexuality and motherhood.