A huge well done on being awarded the Student Photographer of the Year in the 16th Sony World Photography Awards. How does it feel to be a winner in one of the world's most prestigious photography competitions?
I feel absolutely fantastic! The moment I received this award will forever be etched in my memory. It is a remarkable acknowledgment of my hard work and a way to showcase Yunnan, China to the world. I am filled with immense joy and deep honour.
Your winning series Keep the Yunnan Opera shows the dwindling groups of performers and spectators in a traditional opera. How did you hear about this particular type of opera and what appealed to you to make it into a photo story?
Yunnan, my hometown, holds the distinction of being the birthplace of Yunnan Opera. It was in 2019 when I first experienced the enchantment of this art form, and ever since, my quest to comprehend its rich cultural tapestry has been unyielding. Over the course of three years, I embarked on pilgrimages to the once bustling bastions of Yunnan Opera, immersing myself in its history. It has withstood the test of time, traversing the epochs of the Qing Dynasty, the Xinhai Revolution, the Republic of China, and the dawn of the People's Republic of China. Through a journey fraught with hardships, this extraordinary cultural heritage has emerged, its resplendent allure serving as an everlasting testament to its glorious past.
Regrettably, many locals remain oblivious to the existence of this cultural gem. Hence, driven by my passion for photography, I endeavor to illuminate the magnificence of Yunnan Opera, unveiling its captivating beauty to a wider audience and inspiring others to delve into its secrets and safeguard its legacy. In doing so, I pay homage to the cherished cultural heritage of my beloved hometown.
What advice would you give to students thinking about entering next year's Sony World Photography Awards?
In a world where our senses are bombarded by visual stimuli, we must endeavor to pause, reflect, and create works that possess significance and are rooted in compelling narratives. These words have ignited a spark within me, reminding me that as the young generation, it is imperative for us to explore and establish our own artistic styles, while unwaveringly persisting in our pursuits. We shall undoubtedly forge a unique path, ultimately shaping a version of ourselves that is unparalleled.
Can you describe what it was like to attend the ceremony and accept your award on stage in April?
I'm exhilarated and truly overwhelmed with excitement! The thunderous applause from the audience and the words of encouragement I've received have evoked an indescribable feeling within me. I have a deep affection for everyone who has supported me, and I hold great adoration for this esteemed award.
How did it feel to see your work on display at the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition?
At that moment, artworks and cultures from across the world came together, providing a glimpse of the diverse global cultures and creations to a wider audience. This is a profound desire of photographers like us, to serve as documenters, sharing our captured works and cultural expressions with a greater number of people.
Is there anything you've learned about your photographic practice since the overall winners' announcement?
I have garnered substantial media exposure and had the privilege to engage in conversations with other outstanding award-winning photographers. These experiences have not only elevated my own mindset but also enriched my perspectives.
Have you had any thoughts on what you'll photograph / create next?
I will persist in observing cultural phenomena surrounding me, actively seeking out the subtle facets of culture that teeter on the edge of oblivion amidst the sweeping tides of development. Through the medium of visual imagery, I will safeguard and immortalise these treasures. Looking ahead, upon completing my studies in art, my aspirations lead me to embark on a legal education and pass the judicial examination, contributing to the safeguarding of copyright and property rights within China's burgeoning new media landscape. Subsequently, my aim is to secure a scholarship and pursue a postgraduate programme in documentary photography in London, UK. This transformative journey holds the promise of further enriching my photographic perspective.
Why are platforms like the Awards important in pushing your stories and getting your photographs seen around the world?
As a photographer, I have come to realise that an individual's power is limited, particularly for independent photographers exploring personal themes. It becomes challenging to strike a balance between creating exceptional works and achieving significant self-promotion, which is often crucial for photographers. The ideas and creations we produce yearn for a larger audience, as it is through their recognition that we find the inspiration and capability to further elevate our craft. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the competition for providing me with this invaluable opportunity.
How do you think the Awards supports photographers at each stage of their career?
I strongly believe that every stage of a photographer's journey is immensely significant, especially for young and emerging photographers who often face challenges such as limited resources and finding suitable subjects, which can lead to feelings of abandonment or anxiety. In my view, the greatest support that awards offer to photographers is encouragement! It serves as the ultimate source of motivation, at least that's how I personally perceive it.