Interview with Yan Ming (严明) and Yuhui Liao-Fan.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: What does “photography” mean to you?
Yan Ming: Photography is the way that I experience my life.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Can you write a biographical introduction?
Yan Ming: I was born in Bengbu, Anhui Province, and I studied Chinese in university. Now I live in Guangzhou, China.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: What is your history as a photographer?
Yan Ming: I had worked in music industry for ten years after I graduated. I worked in Southern Metropolis Daily from 2001 to 2007, and The Southern Daily from 2007 to 2010. Now I am a freelance photographer.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Can you describe your work? How would you define your photographs?
Yan Ming: My work is an experience; where I am unrestrained as I observe and watch. I am unrestrained, and I do not imprison myself with restrictions. As long as I can get to it, the location of my photo shoots is any place in China. I’m willing to be just a laborer as I photograph the worlds that I love best- ordinary people and the natural world. I want to calmly look upon this ever-changing era with modern eyes. I hope that I can always retain sincerity and that I will work with purity and trueness. While others fear that their work is not western or trendy, I worry that my work is not Chinese or classical. China’s unique culture, history, nature, and the persevering spirit that I inherited from my ancestors has shaped my style of photography. It has led me to feel what changes and what doesn’t.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Can you say a few words about your technique?
Yan Ming: I am using Rolleiflex 2.8F film camera, and I use it to take black and white photos. I will enlarge the photos in the darkroom manually, but I don’t do any manipulation on them.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Does the technical aspects that you mentioned are important or what really matters is only the final result?
Yan Ming: The image itself and the material media by which it is presented are both important.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Do you think that the Chinese contemporary photography is different from the Western one? If yes what are those differences and how do you explain them? Do you think we can speak of a “Chinese school” or photography today is globalized?
Yan Ming: The aesthetic habit of Chinese people is different from that of the west; this leads to the difference on the selection and presentation of landscape and subject comparing to the western photographers.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: How Chinese photography has evolved over the years? How would you describe the recent history of photography in China?
Yan Ming: The sense of calmness, subjectivity, and distance has been strengthened in the Chinese modern photography. Some works are gradually detached from the control of the system and ideology which have been in place for a rather long time. We have to admit that this is a move towards the global trend.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: What do you like and dislike in the contemporary Chinese photography?
Yan Ming: I like the elements of classics, serenity and romanticism in China’s photography. I don’t like those works that aim to preach mechanically, those incendiary works to simply arouse people’s emotion, and those that report on the social system and service.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Do you have a wish or a photographic dream, concerning yourself as well as the contemporary Chinese photography?
Yan Ming: I would like to be able to make living from photography without having to find another job.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Do you think is fundamental to live in a big and important city, or -for example thanks to Internet- the city in which you live is no longer a contraint?
Yan Ming: Geographic location is not important at all. In China, the problem is whether you can be in the right status to take the photographs. Time availability and economic condition is a precondition. For example, in order to keep ends meet, some photographers cannot enjoy even for 15 days of a year taking photographs purely for him or herself. Thus he or she can only be an amateur photographer. Only after the Chinese photographers can have the basic economic conditions and sufficient time to do the artistic creation, it is meaningful to discuss the environment and future of the photography in China.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: Do you think it’s important to have a website or a blog? Is it is essential to have it translated into various languages? How the Internet contributes to the spread contemporary photography?
Yan Ming: In order to present the works in a continuous manner, blog and personal website are very important. Otherwise, it can only been seen by submitting to the media, which is unimaginable.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: How would you describe the artistic and photographic scene in China? Is it that there are often exhibitions, festivals, events, etc.? What about commercial photography?
Yan Ming: I only know that the galleries in China are of really low quality. They cannot provide much assistance, funding, support and promotion for the Chinese photographers. They contribute little to art, but consider a lot on other matters.
Yuhui Liao-Fan: What are your sources of reference for contemporary photography in China?
Yan Ming: I love just walking, not books.
Please visit Yan Ming website for more information and photographs.