Saving Face…s: Images of Southern China

Jonathan Warden is the creator of the exhibition Saving Face...s. It took place April 4 - 6, between 10 a.m. to 5p.m., at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto. All proceeds went to the Make a Wish Foundation.

Photos are known to bring strong emotions out of people.

In photographer Jonathan Warden’s case, it’s no exception. Showing off the work he did while travelling through China, his words almost failed him when discussing the Chinese people.

“These people have nothing and they still find a way to get by,” Warden recalled of the people he met in China, tears rolling down his cheeks.

“Even though they have nothing, they would give you all that they have.”

Saving Face…s, an art show, took place on April 4 to 6, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Photographs were sold to the public and the proceeds went to the Make a Wish Foundation.

This was his first exhibition and the idea came up before Christmas. He said the Chinese Cultural Centre was the perfect location simply because his work was done in China.

“People’s reactions have been positive,” Warden said. “Earlier today, a lot of Chinese people came in and they told me the photographs reminded them of being back in China. Everybody enjoys it.”

Warden, 47, shot all the photographs but he is not a photographer. He works for Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture, creating schedules for her.

Previous to this, he worked in film and television for 10 years until he decided to take a one-year teaching course and move to China. He lived there for four years, teaching in a university and a college.

Other than a photography course he took in college, Warden didn’t have any experience.

“When I was in China, I decided to pick up a still camera and I took about 60,000 pictures,” Warden said, laughing.

Warden’s photographs capture the people, the architecture and the nature of China. The colourful pictures almost resemble paintings, each image open to interpretation because he doesn’t like to include captions.

The concept of saving face is huge in China, Warden said. His students never wanted to make mistakes in front of their fellow classmates and especially in front of a foreigner.

“It’s just a play on words. Saving face and the fact that I am saving a whole bunch of faces,” Warden said.

The exhibition began with 120 images and it brought in $2,000 on opening night. About 70 visitors showed up on Friday and another 30 people came by on Saturday.

Susan Martha and her boyfriend Paul Graham spent Saturday afternoon at the exhibition.Visitor Susan Martha spent the afternoon at the gallery. She said she loved the human element in the photographs.

She came with her boyfriend, Paul Graham, who has been friends with Warden for 13 years.

“He’s always taken great photographs,” Graham said. “We have a few favourites but most of them are already taken.

“I definitely have my eye set on one that I’m going to get today.”