Leeds Museums and Galleries commissioned artist Yan Preston to photograph the Leeds Chinese community as part of the China in Yorkshire programme. This photo installation which the artist created as part of the commission is called 96 Lunch Boxes. It is a printed portrait on acetate, which is then mounted on the lids of 96 lunch boxes.
Yan Preston is a young professional photographer and artist based in the North of England. Born in China, Preston moved to the UK in 2005, after working as an anaesthetist in Shanghai for several years, and started a new life as a photographer. For China in Yorkshire, Preston worked closely with Leeds Museums and Leeds Chinese Communities for over a year. Together they had many interviews, workshops and visits to the museums, many Chinese restaurants and homes. After many delicious meals, the connections were built up and the work was created.
96 Lunch Boxes
Yan was amazed by their glamorous performance the first time she watched the Yuk Ming Cantonese Opera Group. The contrast between on and off stage was huge and Yan thought their dedication to their own culture was very moving. Yan wanted to show this contrast in a striking visual way. She started taking pictures of the opera group in all sorts of situations and tried to experiment with the photos. But nothing exciting came, until one day she saw some takeaway boxes in a pound shop. Their silver colour caught her eyes. She knew then the portraits had to be mounted onto these boxes, which everybody has encountered and can make an immediate reference to.
The lady in the portrait
The lady in the portrait is Mrs Jessica Yeung. Yan photographed her in February 2008 during one of her perfomances in Leeds. In the photo her eyes look straight into the viewer's, which Yan could not forget since the photo was being taken. For the installation, such an effect is ideal so Yan decided to use Jessica’s portrait without any hesitation.
The project is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Renaissance Yorkshire.