Ann Woo plays her cards right
New York-based Chinese photographer eschews interpretation, seeking only what's real in her new photo series
Popular legends have it that designs of playing cards have religious, astrological or metaphysical significance, while others claim these interpretations are jokes made to conceal the true intention of gambling. So Commenting on her new series of photographs, New York-based Chinese photographer Ann Woo says: "In the most straightforward way, these images of playing cards hint that the attempt to interpret meaning in photographs is a joke. We can never ‘see’ the other side of the playing card in a photograph. Therefore the photographs have exaggerated the impossibility of seeing or knowing beyond what is visible in pictures.”
Woo’s Playing Cards series focuses on the beauty she sees in the graphics and patterns on the reverse of playing cards. “I photograph what I like seeing, what I am attracted to, what I am passionate about,” she recently told The Daily Beast. “So when I am photographing something it has to be true. I cannot make up something beautiful.”
Her cards are not all they seem: the viewer cannot see their reverse and is forced to assume what may be on the other side. “I utilise a basic motive in the composition of playing cards – concealing information – to illustrate the impossibility of seeking meaning in photographs,” Woo has said about her exploration into the relationship between truth and imagination. “By photographing only the backsides of the cards, I focus on the nuances of the card patterns.”
Born in Hong Kong to a family with scarce money and growing up in a small apartment, Woo soon learned that she could not hide her roots and resolved to embrace truth in everything she did, especially her photographic work. She is a firm believer in hand printing and avoiding any kind of digital manipulation in her work.
Graduating from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Woo was the first of her family to go to college and has since studied at the ICP, featured in Vice, Pin-up and Lay Flat as well as taking part in over 20 exhibitions across the globe. You can see more of her work here and learn more about where Art And Photography meet in our wonderful book of that name.