Jiehao Su, is a Beijing based photographer mostly known for his Borderland series, an intimate work of remembrance tenderness and self – consolation, as he cites. Jiehao took up photography after his mother’s death in order to escape from grief and pain. Turns out that - as for many artist - sorrow had a creative effect on him, leading this art through intriguing paths. Alongside Borderland, Jiehao also worked on two other series called Summer’s Almost Gone and Homecoming. All of his projects, with their subtle palette, seem to explore the boundaries between imagination and reality.
Dear Jiehao, when did you first realized you want to be a photographer? Do you remember the first time you ever held a camera?
I did not get into photography until in my late teens after the sudden death of my mother. As I was searching for a way to escape from the painful reality, I got my first camera from a friend and quickly became obsessed with photography. I fell in love with it the moment I saw those color slide films on the light-box.
Tell us a few things about the Borderland project and please explain us, why is it an ongoing one? Will it ever end? When do you think you will feel it is completed, do you have a specific goal?
Borderland is an intimate work of remembrance, tenderness, and self-consolation. Mixed with atmospheric portraits and landscape, as well as intimate still life details. My aim is to rebuild my self-awareness through an autobiographical portrait of my homeland, as well as to seek comfort through reconnection to the past. The project is like a psychological healing process. I still want to spend some time to working on it. I know there will be a time for me to end the project when I feel I've finished. Hopefully next year.
Through other interviews of yours I've read, I got the impression that you tend to put a lot of personal elements into your photos. They function as your secret diary, yet you manage through these personal sight, to make them universal, too. Do you realize that this is happening? I mean, when you are behind the lens do you ever think of others, of the public that is going to see your photos? Do you seize to please them?
Yes, I realize that this is what I have been doing. I try to construct an intimate narrative based on my history. I believe that the more personal, the more universal. However, the starting point of this project is to seek comfort in my heart. I mean, when I am behind the lens I can only concentrate on myself. Instead of pleasing others, I think it's better to please yourself.
Is Beijing a nice place for a photographer? Is there inspiration around? How is the art scene in Beijing 2015?
Beijing is the culture and art center of China, which is also a huge metropolis with more than 21 million of people. It is good to see a lot of art institutions and talented artists here. But it's more important for me to find a good balance between art and life, or nature.
You have cited that since your mother's death - that must have affected you a lot - you were into a nomadic lifestyle. What is the most precious thing you learnt from that period?
The death of my mother has totally changed my life. I think the most precious thing I learnt from that period is, finally I have been able to reconcile myself and face reality. I now try to appreciate life from different perspectives.
Do you believe that a time of grief and sorrow can turn into creativity? Why do you think artists have composed their greatest works in times of desperation? Did you feel that way?
Yes, I believe that. Take myself as an example, I used to spend all my energy and will on photography to overcome desperation. I feel like doing art allows people to escape from the time of grief and sorrow.
What do you prefer, landscapes or portraits?
At the beginning of the project, I was interested in people as individuals and the relationships among them. Now my focus has shifted to a more macroscopic perspective, I prefer to shoot landscapes.
Is there a place / person/ object that you would like to shoot but you haven't yet and why?
Very rarely. Sometimes I have certain imagery in my mind, but it's difficult for me to transfer the imagery into a photograph.
What are your plans for the future Jiehao?
I'm going to finish Borderland series and publish a photobook next year. Also I will working on a new series later, which is different from Borderland.