One of the most interesting photographic projects we’ve ever seen is based right here in our very own city: Shenzhen, China. It’s called “I Live Here“, and is shot by Chinese photographer Baixiaoci. It takes a look into the homes and lives of people from all walks of life, from young to old, rich and poor. Baixiaoci is refreshingly the kind of photographer who shoots projects for his own personal interest, over long periods of time, and the results are worth it. After a few years of delay, I finally invited him over to the studio, bought his book, and we had a chance to sit down and chat about his project. So here are my notes from our conversation about his projects…
Baixiaoci started out taking everyday photos in urban villages in Shenzhen. He soon had the idea to shoot people inside their homes, because homes are very important to Chinese people. First, he would ask his friends, and shoot them. Then he would shoot his friends’ friends. Eventually he started knocking on doors and asking strangers. In order to put the people at ease, he would chat with them, have tea, and play with the children. In the end, about 50% of them grant him permission to take their photos. In the beginning, he shot all kinds of angles, from balconies, to kitchens, foyers, etc, but now he only shoots in the living room/bedroom areas of homes. And her prefers to place people in the middle of the photographs. He uses a 24mm lens, in order to give his desired perspective. In Photoshop, he applies a liberal amount of levels and curves adjustments, preferring a more natural look. His favorite photo from this series is this one above: as it appears to be “harmonious, clean, and balanced; but in fact the couple are broken up.” When asked what he has learned about the project, he said it was easy to talk about, but difficult to actually accomplish. His project has expanded from Shenzhen and now includes Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Suzhou, Sichuan, Hong Kong, etc. We applaud him on his hard enduring work.
As for his project on government headquarters all over China, he started off that saying that these buildings are too big, and unfair to the Chinese people, being a waste of money. Asking if he has ever been questioned for shooting these buildings, he said no, stating that he uses a telephoto lens to shoot from a distance. His works in both projects have been displayed at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture, and he has also exhibited in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
Name: 白小刺 (Baixiaoci)
Hometown: Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, China
How did you start taking pictures?
In 2004, I bought my first digital camera and started taking street photos, including all the main urban villages in the city of Shenzhen.
Favorite camera and lens? Why?
I like to use Canon 5D2, because of its high resolution, as well as excellent noise control. I like to use 50mm lens and 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift lens. I am more inclined to use fixed focus lenses.
If you could shoot any thing/person/place, what would it be?
If possible, I want to cut a skyscraper, shooting its cross-section, capturing people in every room and their activities.
What is your most memorable photographic experience?
In Nepal, when I gave money to an ascetic and asked him to do some poses. I found that money can be useful for many things, including the sacred.
What is your shooting style?
Real, large, complex, natural.
Who is your favorite photographer? Why?
Andeas Gursky. I just like his pictures.
What is the best thing about photography? The worst?
Photography will give you some fame, some of which is good, some of which is bad.
What are your future photography plans?
Where can we see more of your work:
www.shoots.it (his blog in Chinese with plenty of text, stories, and great photos)
Here are some of our favorite photos from Baixiaoci: