Hello Ziqian, thank you for sitting down with us and having this discussion. Before anything, it must be said that your photographs are both refreshing and pure. How you appreciate the light and use the natural curvature of your figure are both exquisite. When did you first fall in love with this style of photography?
Thank you so much for your appreciation of my work. First of all, photography for me is not only to shoot the work, but also in the form of pictures to record the changes of myself at different times. This kind of recording is not only about the body, but also about the environment and the state in which it was taken. All of my work uses natural light. On sunny days, my pictures are brighter and warmer. On rainy days, my pictures are darker, the light is recorded. But the body is different, this is my own control, I like the pursuit of the exquisite screen, in order to make the character posture and screen with complete harmony, sometimes I may do the same action dozens of times. Although the process is very hard, I think this style of work makes me feel very quiet. I began to favor this style about two or three years ago.
Your images use different types of glass, reflective and transparent, as with nature, such as botanicals and delicate fruits, you use these to accent your body which is often there as a medium to give an abstract image deeper meaning. What do these elements mean to you and what makes them important?
These elements relate to the two main themes of my work: The first theme is about perspective. Often things we are familiar with will stay in our minds in a fixed image, but everything has two sides, I think through the mirror to convey the same thing from different angles, there will be different findings. On the other hand, my deepest desire is for symmetry and perfect order, both in the appearance of things and in the patterns of human interaction, but this is too idealistic, after all, society is not balanced, some imperfections make it real.
In my work, the image in the mirror represents the idealized world I wish to live in, and the integration with the outside is just a reminder to respect and recognize the imbalance in the real world, but also to adhere to the order and principles of our hearts. The second is the symbiosis between humans and nature. Humans and other creatures of nature live in the same world; we breathe the same air, depend on each other, are tolerant of each other, and to some extent all things are equal. I try to find a kind of balance and symbiosis between man and nature in my works, because only in this kind of state can beauty be most embodied. This is why my work is all shot in natural light, to reflect the most natural, true state.
The balance of your photos seems to incorporate the laws of Feng Shui, or traditional Chinese harmony, is this done intentionally, or is your sense of balance, simplicity, and proportion just naturally so striking?
In fact, I have not carefully studied the principles of Feng Shui, perhaps due to the influence of traditional Chinese culture. There is an old Chinese saying: “No rules, no square”, which illustrates the importance of order, which is also related to the theme of my work — order, and balance. Second, a sense of balance, simplicity, and proportion can also make a person look more comfortable, sometimes just naturally, sometimes are done intentionally.
Your photography veers into the realm of Dutch still life paintings; do you have a love for art history? If so, do you have a favorite period or favorite piece? If so, what makes this your favorite?
In fact, for photography and art, I am not very professional, I am always in the process of learning while practicing. After entering the field, I found myself admiring Rene Magritte‘s work, with a hint of mystery, and giving the viewer a lot of space to think about, to show us that what we really want is always hidden behind the objects we see. I think his work can “speak”, can interact with the audience, this is the most attractive place for me.
You say that your portraits are a way for you to get to know yourself. How does the process of taking self-portraits aid in introspection?
The self-portrait is a way for me to talk to myself, and when I take a picture, I’m completely staying alone. I feel most free when I’m alone. At that time, our deepest, truest selves are revealed. So, in the process of taking a self-portrait, I feel the thoughts coming from my heart, and I feel completely free to express myself, which is also a kind of release of myself.
Because many of your photos hide or conceal your face in part, does this signify a shyness and/or reserve, or does it say something more insightful about your nature? Do you think female beauty today is too concerned with outward depictions and should try harder to suggest inner beauty as your images also do?
I think once the face appears in the image, no matter whether the facial features are beautiful or not, the attention of the viewer may first be on the face, it is easy to ignore the other elements in the work. Expressing emotions through the face can be very precise and direct, but I would probably prefer to do it indirectly. Body parts and plants are not as “tagged” as faces. The main character can be anyone, and each viewer will have a different view of the work due to their different experiences, allowing the viewer to participate in the work, I think it’s a very interesting thing.
The concept of feminine beauty, in my opinion, is very broad and does not have a specific scope, like water, which can exist in different forms in a different medium. Beauty can be seen on the surface of things, in addition, beauty can be flexible from the appearance to the state, experience different stages, the display of beauty is not the same, beauty can be paid and harvest, can also be derived from the spirit of some pursuit. For beauty, everyone has a different view and expression, what exactly is good-looking, how to show beauty appropriately, completely depends on the individual, as long as their own inner approval, that is beautiful.
As a female artist in China do you feel empowered, or challenged by your art form?
The art form really empowered me, and it helped me to improve and become a better version of myself. The challenge, I think, is to find a balance between maintaining a stable style and not repeating myself. For example, I hope people could immediately think of my work when they mention certain elements. So, I need to think and innovate while maintaining my own style.
What is something about the way you see beauty and the world that others can learn about from you that they might not know?
Maybe the way I look at beauty and the world have something to do with the way I shoot, self-portrait need to be alone, to feel the beauty that comes from within, to explore all the beauty around our lives. A lot of people think of loneliness when they think of being alone, but I think loneliness is sometimes used for enjoyment, to enjoy solitude is to discover beauty.
All images with courtesy of Ziqian Liu