Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

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Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

China is fascinating and beautiful. It’s also photogenic. I like photos of the little details that say so much: cups, food, lanterns and so on. Recently I’ve been looking at the work of several Chinese photographers that are really good at taking these sorts of images. Ling Li is one of them – her photos are full of energy and life. Take some time to look at her Flickrstream and photoblog, and enjoy the interview.


Ling Li portraitFirst of all, please introduce yourself  so that we can get to know you better.

I was born in a small town in Hunan province of China, and majored in Art and Design with 4 year college degree. Currently I’m living in Shanghai and working in marketing department for a real estate agent. Photography is a major hobby which takes most of my spare time. I don’t have a plan to turn into a professional photographer so far, but things may change if the opportunity comes.

You have some very creative images. How would you describe your creative vision?

I would say that I observe objects and pay attention to unnoticeable, insignificant details. Different objects may share common patterns; and I like to capture them with unusual lighting, to make common objects appear different.

What drives you as a photographer? What are you trying to record in your photos?

Influenced by friends who love taking pictures, I started playing with my camera too. I try to record the life I’m living, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen and the emotions I felt.

Film or digital – or both? What cameras and lenses do you use and why do you like them?

I use both film and digital cameras.

My most frequently used 35mm camera is an Nikon FM2 with AI-S 50 f1.4 and 24 f2.8. It’s rock solid, easy to use, a milestone in 35mm SLR history. I have captured a lot of emotional moments of my female friends with my FM2.

My most frequently used 120 cameras are a Hasselblad 501CM and Exakta 66. Waist-level viewfinders give me an amazing experience – the image through the viewfinder is so clear, even better than what I see with my own eyes. The subject seems to jump out of the surface, the three-dimensional effect is so strong that I loved it from the first glance. 6×6 is my favourite format; it teaches me about balance and order in composition.

During travel, I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I needn’t care about the cost of developing and scanning, and it feels much more casual.

Besides that, I carry a Fuji Natura Black almost everyday, it has a 24mm wide angle lens and f1.9 aperture gives a fast enough shutter speed. It’s best “point and shoot” camera for me.

You live in Shanghai and I see that you have a lot of very interesting photos of China. I like the little details that you find. What kind of things do like photographing in China? How does Chinese culture influence your photography?

I like to photograph shadows and reflections, portraits with back-lighting, urban life and common objects all around me.

Chinese culture is generally considered as conservative, neutral and moderate, it makes you follow the rules and discourages change. Photo composition  tends to follow convention, so that images are widely acceptable to most viewers.

I also see that you’ve travelled a lot. What are the favourite places that you’ve been for taking photos in and why?

Among the places I’ve traveled to, India is my favourite. You can find everything here to tease your senses; all kinds of colours, sounds and smells. It’s a paradise for photographers.

Who are your favourite photographers and why do you like them?

Austrian photographer Josef Hoflehner.

Josef is a master with the patience to capture elapsing time, with long-exposure photos of light, water and  air all gathered and frozen. He turns a tempestuous, colourful world into a peaceful, spiritually purified wonderland in black and white. It makes me feel the spirit of timelessness and eternity.

Japanese photographer Tommy Oshima.

I started paying close attention to Tommy when I first saw his pictures taken with Leica Noctilux 50 f1.0 lens. The tunnel effect always has impact, and his images have an element of impressionism as well.

You have a lot of beautiful photos. But if you had to pick one as your favourite, which would it be – and why?

I think it should be this one:

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

It was taken during my trip to Fujian province this year. The fish are swimming in an old well with fresh green moss inside, little red fish contrast with the green moss very well, both reflect the lively breath in this old object.

Lastly, thanks Forrest who helped with the translation and  image selection.


You can see Ling Li’s photos at Flickr and on her photoblog.

Photo Gallery

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li self-portrait


Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

Beautiful China: The Photography of Ling Li

All photos copyright Ling Li. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.

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