The pandemic created a pause in Zhong Lin’s schedule. This gave her the time to begin a personal creative project to shoot, edit and share a new image every day. Now nearing the end of Project 365, the resulting images are rich, vivid and speak to the depth of her talent, creativity and hard work. Unable to travel as usual, Lin adapted her plans to photograph and collaborate with people in Taiwan. We hear about how undertaking this project at the same time as other work and commitments pushed the boundaries of what she is capable of creating.
When did you begin taking pictures and exploring photography?
It just felt right from the moment I had the camera in my hands. The process from capturing the moment to the outcome excites me. I started off with an obsession with black and white, then colour. The more I learnt about photography and its many possibilities, the more I wanted to become a photographer. I remembered I had the lowest grade in class, and the lecturer told me not everyone can work as a photographer. I was upset then, but I believe I have proved him wrong.
You are shooting, editing and sharing a new photo each day, this is a very busy self-imposed schedule – how are you managing?
I must admit that the idea of coming up with a new image every day, whilst doing other jobs, is indeed very ambitious. The shoots are not always planned; there are days that I need to improvise within a short time. The challenge of Project 365 is pushing my boundaries under different circumstances and making the fullest out of everything I have. I wasn't sure if I could manage to deliver as I wish daily. But, I'm a very strict person and can be harsh on myself so I know no matter how tired or occupied I am, I will deliver the new work every day.
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All of your work is utterly captivating. Do you have any favourite images or shoots from this year?
I don't have a specific favourite image. Every image represents a different mood and emotion.
Inspired by the intricate details and colour scheme of Chinese opera, you often use red to create bold, vibrant photos. Does your careful use of colour symbolise anything specific to you?
It really depends on the concept and mood that I think would fit best for the scenes. It also depends on the outfits, set design and the surrounding. Finding the balance is very important.
Have you faced any emotional or creative burnout during this lengthy project? If so, how did you recover from it?
It has been up and down during the journey. But I have learnt during the process that no matter what happened has happened I should move on.
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Now over 356 days through, what would you go back and advise yourself on day one when beginning this project?
I wouldn't go back and advise myself for anything as this project is about finding new possibilities and doing what I like to do to share them with my audience. It's a learning process. I'm glad that I started this project, the journey has given me many new visions on creative perspectives and different possibilities in photography. The benefit of this project is a journey of self-discovery.
The hashtags in the Instagram captions of the pictures themselves often add further layers of meaning, such as "#cyclops" on day 116, which shows a model whose hair leaves only one eye visible, drawing the comparison to the one-eyed giants of Greek mythology. Do you plan the picture around the almost title-like hashtag or is the hashtag inspired by the image afterwards?
Usually, I come out with the idea and inspiration for the shoot, then the hashtag is added after the shoot to give a tweak to the concept of the image. I like to use hashtags that give different aspects to my image, which will leave space for my audience for their imagination and interpretation.
Many of your pictures incorporate flowers, natural landscapes, fruit, plants, and insects in a surreal or stylised way. What interests you about these natural forms?
I find peace in nature and I love travelling to places with beautiful scenery that I have never been to. I love escaping the busy street and crowds in the big city to recharge myself. I think it's a pity that we don't pay much attention to how beautiful these natural forms are around us. That is also the reason why I like to observe.
Nature is very fascinating, it's unpredictable, mysterious and calm. I believe the connection between nature and humans are closely bonded. Like how nature provides for us on a scale not measurable. Therefore, I like to capture the mood of nature with the emotion of humans to give more layers to my work.
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What do you miss most about pre-pandemic work? What are you looking forward to when the world is safer?
I would like to travel, shoot and work in different cities with different people again, once the pandemic is over. I’m someone who needs changes or new excitements flowing into my life continuously. I am always looking forward to travelling to somewhere I have never been and working with talented people around the world.
How does this personal creative project compare to doing editorial and campaign photography? Do you prefer anyone over the other?
Doing personal creative projects is more flexible since I'm in charge of everything. I have the freedom to do what I feel like every day. Just like a visual diary, the images reflect the mood, emotion, and story on different days.
On the other hand, editorial and campaign photography have a budget for set design and a bigger team focusing on one project. Both have their own perks, I cannot say which I prefer.
Are there any new mediums you are excited to work with coming up?
At this moment, I can’t think of one, I still have a lot of ideas I have yet to try.
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