Sheila Zhao

Sheila Zhao is a photographer based in China. She’s interested in exploring the medium of photography and its different capacity to tell stories. Her work has appeared in a variety of online and print media, including Raw View Magazine, the Washington Post, GUP Magazine, Burn Magazine, and Sotheby’s Magazine.


The East Was Red

Propaganda is a tactic that has been employed by people and entities of power since 515 BC when Darius I ascended the Persian throne. The objective has always been to help promote a certain cause or to gain power.

I became interested in the visual representation of propaganda when I began collecting vernacular photographs from China’s Cultural Revolution period. For ten years (1966-1976), the political agenda of China’s one party government, lead by its then charismatic helmsman, Mao Zedong, seeped into almost every aspect of the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens. So successful was the government’s endeavor that it created an impact on the visual collective consciousness of the time. When opportunities came for picture taking, a relatively rare luxury at the time, most people deliberately chose to include visual symbols of the prevailing propaganda.

I decided to use Photoshop to block out any text, symbols or figureheads associated with the political messaging of the time. Red is a color used by the Communist government even to this day, signifying revolution. I hope by revisualizing photographs in this way, viewers can gain a sense of the impact propaganda can have on a society during a mere 10 years of Chinese history.

To view more of Sheila’s work please visit her website.