Kind of Light: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
He Wei: I studied fine arts in university, and since then photography has always been my medium for creation and my work. The inspiration for my work comes not only from my personal experience, but also from the paintings, movies, literature and other artworks I am exposed to.
KoL: How would you describe your style of photography?
He Wei: I like to include some narrative elements to my work. I think photography is one way for oneself to open up, so this storytelling within the photographs reflects my person style.
KoL: Not only are you a photographer, but you’re also a photography teacher. Does teaching photography change the way you work afterwards as a photographer?
He Wei: There is a proverb in Chinese which says “teaching benefits teacher and student alike”, meaning that learning and teaching are linked and mutually beneficial, both lead to improvements. And as I am teaching, I have to keep studying new things continuously, so that’s yet another way it fosters my personal growth.
KoL: What can be the biggest distractions or obstacles during the creative process?
He Wei: At different stages you may face different obstacles. First which kind of photographic equipment to use, where to shoot, stage stage props are obstacles. For instance at the beginning of my creative process for “Small Universe” I was thinking of using a person as a model, but because the spacesuit and the shooting space turned out to be major limitations, I ended up using a minature model. But when thinking of the details of a good artistic work, the biggest limitation is maybe the shortage of inspiration for the artist. Because behind each photograph lies a tremendous amount of work during which the artist had to find and store ideas until the point where he could transform them into his work.
KoL: Who or what has been your biggest influence?
He Wei: Among photographers I like Jeff Wall a lot, thus I am also very interested by the way film directors work. And as I kept the habit to go see exhibitions, I often find artists or artworks which move me. So I would say my influences are diverse, they don’t just come from one person or thing.
KoL: You also often feature behind the scenes photos. Why do you think this is important to your audience, and what do you hope to convey by showing these “imperfect” images off?
He Wei: The frontier between photography and reality is becoming less clear today, and my artworks are not traditional photographic works which can be shot with just a camera. Therefore in my exhibitions I do my best to show the creative process materials, scripts, and shooting set-up. I want this material to be more than the recording of the creative process, but to become part of the artwork itself, and I want the audience to also be able to understand this part of the work.
KoL: Are you formally taught or self taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
He Wei: I studied fine art at university, took a few photography classes, and I was also part of a photography group, but the majority of my knowledge was acquired by myself. I think of photography as a very comprehensive form of art, its aesthetic concepts are related to a lot of other fine arts. And the photographic techniques and cameras change with each passing day. There are actually many ways to study photography: most people would use magazines, forums, or photography-related events. But for many people trying to learn, these ways of studying are too scattered and not systematic enough, so for basic level going to a part time photography class can be the best way to save time, and then starting again to continuously self-improve on this basis.
KoL: You are running a photography school on top of your work as a photographer. What is your favorite and least favorite part of owning your own photography business?
He Wei: Fotoforce training school is my full time job today, and I love it, I love being able to share my knowledge of photography with other people. Today my biggest problem is maybe that I’m so busy I barely have any time for myself.
KoL: What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
He Wei: If you really like photography then go ahead and make it a part of your life. You must continuously study to maintain the freshness and innovative nature of your work, and of course sustain your creativity.
KoL: Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
He Wei: I am very lucky to be able to work in the field of photography: photography is not only my work and my centre of interest: it is at the same time something which influences my way of seeing the world. It opened new perspectives and helped me in many ways in which I live my life.
KoL: What photography project are you currently working on?
He Wei: This year I am preparing a new series, somehow related with forest and animals. I believe it will give a wholly new and different feeling from my previous work.