During my year abroad in China, I was handed this trophy in a confusing situation. I was asked to attend a photography event as a guest when suddenly I was called on stage and handed this prize. They did not call out my name specifically, though, and it turned out I was supposed to replace the actual winner who was expelled from China. It got really confusing for me because they actually showed my photographs on the screen and stole my images from WeChat and printed them on the flyer. I probably gave the weirdest interview ever, but the press probably thinks it was because my Chinese wasn’t good enough. Needless to say, I had to return the camel after the event.
Danger at Home
It doesn’t look like it, but this was a very dangerous shot. I climbed on the roof of my apartment in Xi’an and sat on the highest corner with no rails to protect me from falling down. It’s only 32 floors, but enough to pump my adrenaline. The scene itself is nothing special, just a residential area.
M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro
Almost all of the photographs in my portfolio were captured with this lens on an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II micro-four-third mirrorless camera. This was my best friend in China and it’s still my buddy today. You cannot imagine my pain when I broke it on new year’s eve and didn’t get it repaired until March.
This is perhaps my favorite photo that I took in Xi’an. Even though you can see the smog, this was one of the prettier days. It’s not until the sun set down that the sky suddenly turned red. I shot an HDR with a c-pol filter to enhance the color. This version has hardly been touched. You can still notice the dirt on the lens.
Spring in China. The air pollution was too strong and it felt like the whole world was desaturated. So I decided to do some b&w photography. I think the dark grey tones give the image a sense of serenity.
Portrait of an Unknown Man
This is not the usual portrait as it is shot from the back. The person stays anonymous. However, this retired man is quite symbolic power over the Chinese culture. He uses a big brush and water to write down lessons of his past so he doesn’t forget them. Roots are especially strong in China
I am not good at street photography and I am also not very talkative. But after listening to this man play the flute for 20 minutes in the park, I just had to ask him if I can take his photograph. Nervous enough I only pressed the shutter once but it turned out quite alright. With new confidence I asked another woman if I could take a picture of her cute child. She just said no and that’s the reason why I don’t have many portraits of strangers…
Sound of Spring
The characters for quanyun translate to the pleasing musical sound of spring. In front of the calligraphy blossoms a bonzai tree.
A handwritten poem with a too deep meaning for me to understand. Wu translates to realize, awaken.
Smile for Tourists
I tried secretly taking a shot of this wise man, sitting on the street and enjoying his tobacco. Unfortunately he also spotted me. So I had no choice but to ask him if I could take his picture – in Chinese. He was so surprised and happy about the new acquaintance, that he wouldn’t stop smiling and laughing straight into the camera. It was not the setting I was going for, but ultimately it is still a good shot and it reminds me how welcoming local Chinese can be.
This very Western-styled Café can be found in Xi’an. Coffee is very popular in China. It represents the Western lifestyle, even though more and more popularity comes from South Korea. This particular café, that not many people visit until late in the evening when the live band plays, is very reminiscent of renaissance art.
This pagoda in Xi’an is very important to the history of Buddhism. Around 650 A.D. monks started translating and preserving original Buddhist scrolls that else would have been burnt and lost in the following wars.
This is another shot from Xi’an. I enhanced the colors of the sky. Actually Xi’an is a very desaturated city. Not only air pollution is a problem, but also dust that blows from the nearby plateau through the surrounding mountains. So when there is a nice autumn day with clear sky, the city feels like it blossoms. I wanted to capture this feeling.
This is my lucky shot. I am not sure why, but when I saw this moth fly above the flowers, I just had to capture it on camera. This is my biggest challenge to date as this creature is ridiculously fast. Manual focus, fastest shutter speed and 20 min of missing the focus. It’s unimaginable I captured this at f/2.8.
My scholarship colleague from Peru dressed up in traditional Shaanxi clothing. Applying the make-up was quite time-consuming but the result is amazing. She wore the dress not much differently than the actual opera star later that night.
Drum Towers became an important trademark of urban cities after the Mongol Empire in the late 13th century. They signaled the time and with it the opening and closing of market hours. Zhu Yuanzhang had the Drum Tower erected in the early Ming dynasty. I took the shot from a balcony of one of the nearby restaurants in a shopping mall.
A Proud Baker
This street baker from Ürümqi proudly shows off his bread, called 饼 bǐng.
For us that have subjected ourselves to capitalistic lifestyles, it is almost impossible to imagine the dedication needed to stay strong to nature-imposed moral values. However, buddhistic and taoistic values are still very apparent in the Chinese society.
Summer in the City
Welcome to China! This is one of the very first pictures I took in my temporary hometown Xi’an. It’s not as pretty as Shanghai, that’s for sure. But it was an even greater experience. A challenge that turned out to be a lot of fun. I took this picture from the top floor of a hotel in a residential area. I couldn’t afford the room so I just grabbed a photo and said that I got the address wrong.