Interview, Hui Li -
Hui! When you go to sleep at night, are you still amidst the abundance of light?
Yes, sort of. There’s always a certain source of light that I’m fascinated by. I love the moment when night falls. I prefer the natural light when I lay in bed, looking at the moonlight or the stars through the curtains taking different shapes and forms before I fall asleep.
People who follow your work have said that you are the definition of light for them, but to you, where your inclination towards the light comes from? Is it the fear of darkness or it’s because of realizing the inner light?
My inclination towards light comes entirely from my curiosity. I’m not afraid of the darkness. On the contrary, I don’t even like to turn on the lights in the room at night. I feel that touching and feeling the unknown in the darkness is what gives me the most rewarding experience. When I’m in my room, I always feel like the outside light is a set of eyes peeking inside at me from the sky.
The other aspect of your work is that it goes deeply into intimacy, where your subjects invite each other to the deepest core of their being, allowing each other to “see” as they see themselves. Is that your way of communicating your experiential poetry or a way to communicate the longing?
To me, intimacy is very simple, because it’s a feeling or an activity that everybody is familiar with to some degree. I find it’s something that I cannot ignore in my everyday life. So I chose to document the moments that appeared intimate to me. I was interested in this subject because a seemingly simple moment of intimacy can quickly become something extraordinary. I see my exploration as a sensitive, subtle, and emotional stream of consciousness.
..your subjects also share the same intimacy with themselves or nature. Is that how you are, always in a harmony with the existence?
I think so. I share the same interest in nature.
Now, you have said that you only want to express a “certain mood”, could you talk to us about what you originally intended for that mood to be before it gets interpreted?
The things I’m trying to express really depend on the specific photograph or series in question. I call it a certain mood because it derives from a very personal understanding, and my definition of this moment will be understood by personal experience and feelings. But everyone’s experience is different, so I won’t define what somebody should think or feel.
The moments you share, you can’t really pick up inspirations for that from studying daily life, so where do you moments come from - a wild imagination or moving deeper, and deeper into a moment. Is that where meditation helps?
When I stare at something — trees, flowers, waves — my mind usually wanders off and I think about something else. I often get distracted when people talk with me, and sometimes when I simply look at an object, an idea may suddenly pop into my mind. And I also get a lot of inspiration from all kinds of music and movies.
Film photography is a craft because it requires an immense understanding of light since your work is all about it - could you share your understanding of light and how you play with it for different moods and under different settings?
Basically, I prefer to work in the early morning, and in the twilight when the day ends, as this is the most transient time of day. Like other photographers who prefer natural light, I find this makes it easier to capture the texture of light, especially when it comes to film photography.
..and once you have captured those moments, how do you process them - is digital editing an important part of getting your trademark look?
Digital editing is not an integral part of my work at all. I only do the most basic adjustments, if at all — like adding a little brightness or darkness or slightly reducing contrast. I learn from my failed experiments, and that helps me get a better idea of how to take a better picture the next time.
How has it been for you to express through photography as your medium, do you find it liberating?
Yes. It allows me to show what I see in this world by employing my own style.
You have also said that you’d simply enjoy meeting people with a child-like heart, Do you think it’s important to always be as fresh and energetic as a child?
I am not an energetic person, I might look like a bit of a sleepyhead to some. But I think it is important for me to be curious and always keep a fresh perspective on different subjects, keep experimenting. I’m interested in the unknown and the things that people might easily ignore, so that’s what I mean when I talk about a child-like heart.
With that, What else would you suggest an aspiring photographer?
Don’t follow the rules, don’t go by what’s popular right now. Follow the subject that personally excites you, and then create your own style.
Interview with Li Hui