This Shanghai-based photographer finds the urban landscape of the city to be too overwhelming, relying more on the simplicity of certain subjects, whether that being human or nature. Using random photographs taken after shoots to fill up the left-over film before development, Chixi finds patterns in them. Aware of the variety of perceptions that photography he creates, he finds these ‘accidental’ shots to be charming, even creating specific albums for them. His work relates to his feelings towards a subject he plans on capturing, calling this phenomenon visualised emotions.
When did you start getting into photography? Was it thanks to your childhood or did this passion evolve later on?
I grew fond of photography and started taking photos in 2012 when I took a class in college. Though another reason is that my father used to be a photographer. He was the first to open a photo studio in our town, which left a significant impact on me.
Which photographers influenced you and your style? How did they impact your career path?
At the initial stage of my photography practice, lots of photographers had influenced me, for example, Nan Goldin, Daido Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira. I felt like every artwork that I saw would affect me to a certain extent. However, what truly defines me are my family, my life experience, social environment and so on, while influences from other photographers on me are more on the technical level.
Your collection Tattoo features only two photographs. Was this done intentionally or because you couldn’t find anyone else with specific tattoos that you found photography-worthy?
It was because I saw no reason to continue this project. I didn’t have enough motivation to finish it.
Photography is centred a lot on intimacy and trust. In your 2014-2016 and 2017 albums on your website, you feature both male and female in the nude. How do you create this kind of relationship with your subjects?
Most of the photographed are my friends and people who reached out to me after seeing this series. For one, friendship can build trust; for another, trust was generated since they had seen my previous work of this series.
In some of your collections, such as in Series, your photography captures spontaneous moments that occur during the day such as a woman running errands or a tree bustling in the wind – these subjects aren’t posed. How do you decide what you want to capture and how do you get these subjects the way you want them for the photo?
It was simply that I saw something I’d like to record and so I pressed my shutter button. The instant feelings when I decide to shoot are of course different. My personal emotions decide the subjects to capture and the methods to use. You can call this visualised emotion.
Your collection Section contains a variety of images which are very different from each other. My favourite from this series is of the man staring at you whilst smoking. Are these shots from a particular day in your life which you just wanted to document or do they all connect in some way?
I occasionally encountered him, and the moment I grabbed my camera he was there smoking while staring at me. This is also the reason why I love shooting in the street. I can hardly explain the interactive relationship. It’s complicated and at the same time simple.
In your collection Journey, you feature an airplane which fits in nicely with the title of the collection. How do the other photographs – that are of nature – tie in? Do they depict a different type of journey for you? Maybe the journey to a greener Earth, which is juxtaposed by the opening photograph of a massive polluter: the aeroplane?
When I zone out of current life scenes, I would start to take these kinds of pictures. They are not just to depict different types of journeys for me, they themselves are also independent beings. They are concrete subjects presented in the photos, and they are where my personal feelings are attached. As everyone can have different perceptions towards a photograph, which is the charm of photography, I can hardly give a standard answer to you.
Your collection Car Light is particularly intriguing. Why did you decide to photograph an entire series of only car lights? Was it an experiment, maybe?
(Laughs) It’s another coincidence. As there are always several unfinished films left in my camera after my shooting work, I would just randomly use those films up when I needed to develop all of them. Later, I found that most of the time I was shooting car lights, so I collected them together as a series. I still got lots of them on my computer.
You are currently based in Shanghai. What would you say is the biggest inspiration that this city provides for your photography?
At the moment, I think urban life would not provide me with any inspiration. What cities bring me are more about anxiety and fickleness and sometimes I would just forget to think deeply in this urban context. Highrises would block my views and the hustle of the city would make me lose my sensibility to the nature of everything.
What are your plans for the future and do you already have an idea for your next collection?
My plan is no plan, it's just to keep photographing. Now, most of my photographs are made depending on the immediate feelings. I would not focus on one particular project for a long time as I like pictures with sensibilities; rationality would always make images lose the soft texture and reduce photography to a 'tool.' For me, cameras enable me to have one more access to senses, just like the perception of my body.