Shanghainese model Zhang Wen for H&M.
I first met Kyle (Feng Jiaqi) in 2005, shortly after I'd arrived in Chengdu. There were a few local rock bands playing at the Shamrock, and being in my early 20s and fancying going out to a rock sho...
Shanghainese model Zhang Wen for H&M.
I first met Kyle (Feng Jiaqi) in 2005, shortly after I'd arrived in Chengdu. There were a few local rock bands playing at the Shamrock, and being in my early 20s and fancying going out to a rock show as an opportunity to dress up, I was wearing my finest torn fishnet stockings and leather and lip ring, and he tapped me on the shoulder and complimented my clothes.
I would find out that he was an English major at the Chengdu University of Information Technology who happened to be really into music and clothes, at the time and on the weekends he would come over and try on my black eyeliner and we would take snapshots in the mirror, and then he would wash it all off before going to eat dinner with what he describes as his "very normal, average family."
In his senior year, he went to Beijing for an internship and said he didn't like the way people talked and that he missed Sichuan. So I was surprised when not long after he announced that he was moving to Shanghai. We mostly fell out of contact over the years, but once he mentioned he was taking photos and did we want to publish any in the magazine? "This is CHENGDOO magazine," I replied. "What do we want with Shanghai party photos? Contact the Shanghai magazines." Another few years passed and I heard from him again. "I'm in Chengdu. Let's meet at the Europe House."
Not exactly my cup of tea, but it's conveniently located, so I went upstairs and took a seat on the rococo-inspired sofa chair while a white-gloved waitress poured me some hot water, and I ordered the most expensive coffee I've ever had in my life. Kyle arrived—he had ditched his plastic-framed glasses for a lip ring and he had a more worldly, confident air about him, but otherwise he looked more or less like the same kid I knew all those years ago.
He ordered green tea ("Too cool for coffee, Mr. Shanghai?" I asked. "No, it's my stomach. I had spicy food last night") before filling me in on how he's become a big-shot photographer.
The photographer in Berlin.
So how did you get started in photography?
I got interested because I always liked rock 'n' roll—it had been always part of my life. In university every week, I'd go to see what new CDs from Western rock 'n' roll bands the sellers had, and also to Little Bar. At that time I couldn't afford an expensive camera, so I just used a digital [snapshot] camera.
Then in Shanghai, I contacted the expat magazine City Weekend. By then I had bought an SLR and was always going to take pictures of some underground rock shows. The third time I sent photos in, they were published, and every issue since then they send me to take photos of shows. I've been shooting for this magazine for almost 20 issues. I think that [gave me confidence] to try to work as a photographer. So then I went to the attached photography institute of Fudan University and studied for a year.
At that time I did a lot of events, parties, birthday parties, corporate events, expos, some food exhibitions. So that's how I made money for a few years, and after that I started shooting models because I wanted to be in the fashion industry as a photographer. I love fashion—it's connected with rock 'n' roll as well, and now it's been two years since I started to do fashion.
Now I do a lot of portraits for magazine editorials, maybe because that's what I'm good at and most of the magazines want that. I shot Guo Jingming, the writer, and the most famous Chinese football star and some CEOs for Harper's Bazaar and Numéro. I've also done some work for Elle Men, and a couple weeks ago for Men's Health I shot a photo of a renowned blood-transfusion specialist in his surgery room. It was very exciting for me. I love portraits—they can show the expression or the moment of the person's sense.
How do you find work?
Weibo helps, and if the editor likes your work they might introduce you to others from the same industry. One time I shot the singer from Massive Attack performi