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Far from the Madding Crowd: Cicada’s Shed and its artists

The three photography artists that are now running Cicada's Shed. From R to L, Li Wei, Zhou Yu and Lin Ke. Provided by Lin Ke.  

Editor’s notes: Cicada’s Shed is nothing like a shed but a big loft-style house remodeled from a deserted workshop, which boasts a floor area of 1,700 square meters. Spacious exhibition hall decorated with installation art, glass-walled lobby lounge with high ceilings and a bar corner, offices and bedrooms on a mezzanine floor, photo studio, dressing room, and even an open-air balcony, the well-designed art space surrounded by a courtyard of 5,000 square meters has them all, and no wonder it is called a miniature art district (微型艺术区) by its current residents--three photography artists who hope more kindred spirits would join them for pursuing art and devoting concerted efforts into charitable undertakings.

A visit to Cicada’s Shed

I was recommended Cicada’s Shed by Lin Ke (林克), one of the three initiators of Cicada’s Shed photography (蝉舍摄影), and a rising star in China’s documentary photography world, whom I interviewed before about a series of his works for Love Save Pneumoconiosis, a highly-acclaimed NGO engaged in helping poor families with pneumoconiosis patients.

After seeing his works, it cannot be denied that he is quite a talented documentary photographer, capable of grabbing the touching and glittering moments in real lives. In the past year, Lin Ke completed ten photo projects and published several of them on, the most-viewed Chinese-language web portal, thus winning fame through his impressive works. He recently collaborated on a book of photography Azalea Blooming (索玛花开) with a friend, and all of the proceeds from the sale of the book would go to charity.

Read: A photographer who records realities about China January 14, 2013

On a bleak and hazy early spring day, I visited Cicada’s Shed in Yanjiao (燕郊), a town in Hebei province bordering east Beijing, which is only 20 minutes’ drive from Songzhuang (宋庄), the most well-known and biggest artists community in north China.

I was received by Lin Ke (林克) at the bus station. Although we only met twice before, the taciturn photographer having a warm smile always strikes me as reliable and familiar.

On our way to Cicada’s Shed, Lin Ke briefed me about his two friends—Li Wei (李伟) and Zhou Yu (周鱼), who jointly set up Cicada’s Shed, and confided that he has faith in them both as friends and as artists engaging in a big cause. 

Once stepping into the courtyard, I was effusively greeted by three vivacious German Shepherds. They bounded near, bumping against me and then leaping away happily. Quite cute! I was attended by the robust and loving creatures into the courtyard when they got busy with sniffing and licking my hands. Finally, I met Zhou Yu (周鱼) and Li Wei (李伟), the co-founders of Cicada’s Shed, when I was already overwhelmed by their adorable dogs.

One of the office in the art space. Provided by Lin Ke.

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