Images offer insights in our shared world

By Xing Yi in London | | Updated: 2023-11-26 23:21
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The Eyes Have It  [Dennis Durack / Provided for China Daily]

Photographers train lenses on each other’s home, Xing Yi reports in London.

Perspective is vital in photography. As a photographer presses the shutter button, he freezes the moment of reality in his view, and every photographer tries to present a unique perspective of the world.

With 250 images from more than 150 photographers from around the world, The European-Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook is proving to be not just a collection of amazing photos, but also a record of narratives from East and West — promoting cultural exchanges and capturing diversity.

The volume is the first European-focused edition of the well-established Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook series to be published in London, with Sino European Arts, an art consultancy, responsible for its contents, editing, and publishing.

The European-Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook [Provided to China Daily]

Suzanna Mu, editor-in-chief of The European-Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook, said the goal of the volume is to create a platform for dialogue between Eastern and Western photographers, and to build a bridge for cultural exchanges.

"We curated a selection of photography artwork … we focused on landscape, wildlife, documentary, portrait, creative, and cultural comparison. This yearbook aims to not only showcase the high qualities of the images, but also convey the stories, emotions, and ideas behind them," she said.

While Chinese photographers' works often show cultural and natural elements with a focus on landscapes, architecture, and daily life, Mu said, their composition often places an emphasis on balance, symmetry, and harmony, which reflect traditional Chinese philosophies.

Xiao Qing from Time Travel [Guo Dagong / Provided for China Daily]

"European photographers put a greater emphasis on individualism and personal expression in their photos, with more diverse themes, including urban life, fashion, popular culture, wildlife, portraits and experimental art, often with a greater diversity in styles and approaches," Mu said. "Composition is more dynamic or unconventional, such as taking the details of an object, instead of showing the whole image."

Beauty in the ordinary

When Mike Longhurst, a fellow of the United Kingdom's Royal Photographic Society, went on a trip to China a few years ago, he tried to find original pictures of Chinese life and culture that were not as well-known as the terracotta warriors, rice terraces or pandas.

Through his camera lens, ordinary objects, such as bicycles, umbrellas, and clothes pegs, formed abstract geometric shapes, and the silhouette of people watching a Chinese leather shadow show became part of the play.

Parasols [Mike Longhurst / Provided for China Daily]

"In China, I was surprised at how relaxed people were about having their pictures taken and how welcoming they were of foreigners," said Longhurst. "Walking the streets, one felt very safe, which is unlike being a tourist in many parts of the world, including some parts of Europe.

"The early morning tai chi exercises were interesting, so was the scale of modern buildings in many cities, but we were all impressed by how the history is also being preserved and in some cases, rediscovered."

Huang Songhui, a Chinese photographer based in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said he likes snapping street scenes, and the different architecture, people and culture he encounters in Europe always kindles his curiosity and pushes him to create something new.

[Huang Songhai / Provided for China Daily]

One time, he saw an old woman walking in the alleys of Venice and was about to raise his camera to shine a light on her back and noticed a child next to him looking, as if to say: go ahead. He captured the moment.

"I studied drawing when I was a child and turned to photography in my twenties," Huang said. "So, my photos often carry a style of ink-brush painting."

Peter Crane, a British photographer who also likes street photography, has two photos in the yearbook that he shot in a market in Southwest China's Chongqing city.

[Peter Crane / Provided for China Daily]

"I just liked the friendly way in which the characters were communicating with each other. These images, for me, portrayed the friendly and happy atmosphere within the market," said Crane. "What impressed me the most when I was taking pictures in China was the freedom to be able to take images of the people. Nothing was confrontational and the people were so friendly."

Yu Taojun, a Chinese photographer who lives in London, England, submitted a photo of a Chinese businessman making phone calls in an office that had a stunning view of the River Thames.

He said: "I wanted my photo to show the new generation of Chinese in Europe."

London Office [Yu Taojun / Provided for China Daily]

Pandemic challenge

When Suzanna Mu started the project, the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the world, so it took a lot of effort to complete the editing process, through numerous email exchanges and video calls. The pandemic stopped many aspects of the yearbook production process, including ways in which photos had been collected and the way design and production was completed.

"The pandemic has had a number of impacts on the content and production of the yearbook. Eventually, we completed the editing and publication of this book brilliantly. I felt very proud that the publication of the book received a lot of interest among the photographers when it eventually came out," said Mu.

After the yearbook was released, it was widely praised in the photography community. Because the overall artistic concept of the book is unique, the image arrangement is rhythmic, the content of the work is consistent with the design style, and it is full of visual impact.

RPS President Simon Hill with editor Suzanna Mu at ICCI Exhibition. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The book is currently available in the catalog of the British Library and has been collected by the Royal Library and many university libraries, including University of Oxford and University of London.

Stella Panayotova, royal librarian and assistant keeper of the Royal Archives, wrote a letter of thanks to Mu saying King Charles III "looked at the volume with great interest" and thanked her for this thoughtful gift.

Simon Hill, president of the Royal Photographic Society, said: "I have had a long look through the book. Some stunning images. Would be great to see it celebrated more widely across the Royal Photographic Society. It allows us to see different works in different cultural backgrounds."

Grassmen by the Sailimu Lake in Xinjiang [Gao Jiansheng / Provided for China Daily]

Gao Jiansheng, editor-in-chief of The Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook, said in the forward of the European volume: "The world in the eyes of photographers is the world in their hearts … These two groups view the world from their perspective ... each has its own beauty, and that beauty can be shared in a united vision."

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