Born in the province of Hunan, China, I was separated from my birthplace at the age of two, when my family relocated to the rapidly growing city, Shenzhen. Now, returning to Hunan (Hu referring to Dongting Lake and Nan meaning the South), I find myself continuously perplexed by the complex feeling, beyond sadness and longing, that this place invokes within me. I also find myself wondering what it means to grow up without any direct influences from a grounded local culture, since Shenzhen, benefitting from booming economic growth, only has a solid history of 30 years. Thus, my relationship with Hunan has been complicated: I connect with it deeply, but its influence has never been direct. Curious to explore this further, I started creating my “imaginary hometown” of where I was born, projecting the images in my head back onto this place based on segments of memories. By consciously seeking evidences in Hunan that illustrate the loss of my sense of belonging, I use photography as a means of exploring my complex relationship to my place of origin, imagining the connection from my early life that I could never previously preserve.
Ke Peng is a fine-art photographer and artist currently based in Providence, RI, US and Shenzhen, China. She is pursuing her BFA degree in photography at Rhode Island School of Design.