Glasgow MDes Communication Design School of Design

Zhaoyan Wang

After finishing my university studies in accounting, I came to GSA to study communication design. I have always been interested in publications, and I prefer the physical design to digital ones. Initially, my study focused more on graphic design, especially book design and printing. During the research, I gradually shifted my interest from graphics to photography. It was a whole new field for me and completely changed the way I looked at the world. I realized that there were once many tiny things that I had overlooked. The camera helped me to rediscover these details and traces, which reveal the real life. I enjoyed my time in GSA, as it allowed me to try new things and explore my interests.

Bare Branches & Leftover women: Nanjing Marriage Market


This series of photographs is about my grandmother who is 82 years old. She is a capable and optimistic old lady who has taken care of many children and has always kept the house in order. She was born in Tongshan in the south of China in the 1930s and has lived through and borne witness to the many changes and events throughout recent Chinese History, including The Sino-Japanese War, The Civil War, the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China and the Cultural Revolution. Her story is not only her story, it is also a universal one that reflects the common fate of many ordinary people of her time.

Whilst interviewing my Grandmother, I found that she has lived in 12 different homes/residences with each place representing a specific part of her history. Through my photographs of her and her current home as well as photographs of some sentimental objects that she has kept, I wanted to try and tell her story, the story an ordinary woman, who has lived in extraordinary times.

Bare Branches & Leftover women: Nanjing Marriage Market

This project was originally inspired by my experience of being pushed by my parents to get married. In China, marriage markets have been set up in many cities, and they have become popular in the last two decades. Parents here usually have specific criteria for choosing a spouse, such as age, height, household registration, income, education, etc. In this market, unmarried children are quantified into specific numbers by which parents can compare and select them. Unmarried young people are priced, advertised, and sold like commodities. I felt bitter about this practice, so I had the idea to satirize this social phenomenon visually.

I researched in the Nanjing marriage market, taking photos and interviewing different groups of people, including parents, unmarried children, and marriage agents, and organized the content into different chapters according to participants’ identities.


Bare Branches & Leftover women: Nanjing Marriage Market / full video