Perspective is vital in photography. As a photographer presses the shutter button, he freezes the moment of reality in his view, and every photographer tries to present a unique perspective of the world.
With 250 images from more than 150 photographers from around the world, The European-Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook is proving to be not just a collection of amazing photos, but also a record of narratives from East and West – promoting cultural exchanges and capturing diversity.
The volume is the first European-focused edition of the well-established Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook series that has been published in London, with Sino European Arts, an art consultancy, responsible for its contents, editing, and publishing.
Suzanna Mu, editor-in-chief of The European-Chinese Photographic Art Yearbook, said the goal of the volume is to create a platform for dialogue between Eastern and Western photographers, and to build a bridge for cultural exchanges.
“We curated a selection of photography artwork…we focused on landscape, wildlife, documentary, portrait, creative, and cultural comparison. This yearbook aims not only to showcase the high qualities of the images, but also convey the stories, emotions, and ideas behind them,” she said.
While Chinese photographers’ works often show cultural and natural elements with a focus on landscapes, architecture and daily life, Mu said, their composition often places an emphasis on balance, symmetry and harmony, which reflect traditional Chinese philosophies.
“European photographers put a greater emphasis on individualism and personal expression in their photos, with more diverse themes, including urban life, fashion, popular culture, wildlife, portraits and experimental art, often with a greater diversity in styles and approaches,” Mu said. “Composition is more dynamic or unconventional, such as taking the details of an object, instead of showing the whole image.”
When Mike Longhurst, a fellow of the United Kingdom’s Royal Photographic Society, went on a trip to China a few years ago, he tried to find original pictures of Chinese life and culture that were not as well-known as the terracotta warriors, rice terraces or pandas.
Through his camera lens, ordinary objects, such as bicycles, umbrellas and clothes pegs, formed abstract geometric shapes, and the silhouette of people watching a Chinese leather shadow show became part of the play.
“In China, I was surprised at how relaxed people were about having their pictures taken and how welcoming they were of foreigners,” said Longhurst. “Walking the streets, one felt very safe, which is unlike being a tourist in many parts of the world, including some parts of Europe.
“The early morning tai chi exercises were interesting, so was the scale of modern buildings in many cities, but we were all impressed by how history is also being preserved and in some cases, rediscovered.”
Peter Crane, a British photographer who likes street photography, has two photos in the yearbook that he shot in a market in Southwest China’s Chongqing city.
“I just liked the friendly way in which the characters were communicating with each other. These images, for me, portrayed the friendly and happy atmosphere within the market,” said Crane.
Yu Taojun, a Chinese photographer who lives in London, submitted a photo of a Chinese businessman making phone calls in an office that had a stunning view of the River Thames.
He said: “I wanted my photo to show the new generation of Chinese in Europe.”
The book is currently available in the catalogue of the British Library and has been collected by the Royal Library and many university libraries, including the University of Oxford and University of London.
Stella Panayotova, royal librarian and assistant keeper of the Royal Archives, wrote a letter of thanks to Mu saying King Charles III “looked at the volume with great interest” and thanked her for this thoughtful gift.
Simon Hill, president of the Royal Photographic Society, said: “I have had a long look through the book. Some stunning images. Would be great to see it celebrated more widely across the Royal Photographic Society. It allows us to see different works in different cultural backgrounds.”