The Street Photographer Who Takes Candid Shots of Local People In Luoyang – Clive Rowland
CNCREATE met up with a photographer currently living and working in Luoyang, Henan Province. Clive has been taking pictures of the people and the streets of Luoyang for the last six years. We asked him some questions about his work and his methods. Here is what he had to say to us.
Q: Explain to the readers of CNCREATE your series of photos about Luoyang?
A: I guess living here lets me see Luoyang from a different angle to the usual tourists who will come and go. I’ve always enjoyed exploring new places, and back home in the UK there’s very little chance I’ll stumble upon anything that’s not already been seen and done a million times before.
In China, and especially in Luoyang I can hop on my bike and within 20 minutes l can be somewhere new, unusual and usually with something of interest (to me at least). The series of shots from here are accumulated from my years of observing and experiencing the streets of Luoyang, often going to places where they are rarely visited by anyone other than local residents, let alone a foreigner.
Q: How did you get to take the snapshots of the locals without them getting angry or maybe annoyed at you?
A: Photographing the local people has never really posed any serious problems, even though my command of the Chinese language is still pretty basic. I am always treated with a mixture of curiosity and welcome.
I’ve been welcomed into the homes of strangers, offered food and water and been invited to join card games on an almost uncountable amount of times now, so taking a few photos is probably expected. The people in the more rural areas, especially the older generation tend to be a little camera shy, but with little persistence I can get the right shot.
Q: Who would you say are your biggest influencers in terms of photography?
A: I started photography back in the U.K, focusing on gigs, mainly as a way to get into music festivals for free and not have to face the queues for the toilets, when I moved to China six years ago I already came with an interest in photography but needed a new and different direction.
Street photography was the obvious choice for someone who spent so much time aimlessly walking the streets of China! As far as influences go, obviously the more exotic shots from Cartier Bresson and Steve McCurry, the latter having visited Luoyang a few decades ago. William Klien and Bruce Gilden are names most street shooters will be familiar with, and although I don’t think I’ve taken anything from their visual style, I think their attitude to shooting is something I have tried to emulate while dealing with my own personal fears of holding a camera up to a complete stranger.
I was given a book on a Chinese photographer called Xie Hailong, not long after I arrived in China, someone who is often compared to McCurry. At the time he was totally unknown to me but in a strange coincidence, a couple of years later he gave a lecture at a University here in Luoyang. I didn’t even realise it was the same guy until I sat down and recognised the slides he was showing. Xie Hailong’s work is probably the style I’d most like to follow for my work in China.
Q: What projects would you like to work on next?
A: My street photography project is basically a document of my current lifestyle, so I can’t see me shifting away from that. As my hard drives start to fill up with folders of shots, I have found the need for more direction so focusing on the disappearance of the older communities is probably the most prominent theme. Even though it is probably a little overdone by foreign photographers here in China.
At the same time I have been trying to find a style of model / portrait photography that suits me, so I am often pestering Chinese friends to pose for me. This is maybe more of a personal and social challenge than photography, but its certainly a challenge so far. Being a foreign photographer, or just a foreigner with a camera opens many doors in China, so any kind of photography related tasks are always welcomed. I was asked to shoot a few events in the local temples last year, which was a great experience.
Q: What was the general reaction of people when you took photos of them?
A: The general reaction, as I mentioned earlier has always been positive. I’m sure many have mistook me for some kind of international journalist and treated me as such. I think the fact that I am there with a big camera and a more serious attitude will maybe make people more curious and welcoming than if i was walking through like a tourist but after explaining that I live here and that I am a teacher, attitudes towards me never seem to change.