Jiale Liu

2021 Non-Professional Fine Art Photographer of the Year

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background!

I am a minimalist photographer from Beijing, I live a simple life and take minimalist pictures.

Q: How did you realize that you enjoy photography and capturing pictures?

When I first started shooting photos, like most photographers, I mainly shoot city landscapes, and I have traveled to many cities and rooftops in China, capturing all kinds of city landscapes and I enjoyed it a lot. In the process of exploring, I start to notice the details of different buildings, their amazing structures, and colors, which are quite inspirational to me, and as a result, I gradually shifted my focus to shooting their details and created many minimalist photos.

Q: Do you ever have trouble getting inspired? What do you do when moments like this arise?

Most photographers see minimalist photography as a technique or a way of shooting, but some people think of it as a long-term shooting project because is not easy to find the right shooting target, and you may have to spend years to finish the project.

I was also quite confused when I first came into contact with this style, because at first, I thought there is not much simplicity subject worth shooting in my city. Does it mean this project is over?

Of cause not, In fact, in the process of exploring, I gradually realized there are so many beautiful and interesting things around us that I have not noticed before. One of the most important things I learned in shooting this project is that we have to really think, to observe, there is so many things to considered in the whole creation process. For example, before shooting, you have to first have in mind what you are looking for and how do you want the different elements lay out in your composition and how do your want to do your post-editing process, there is so much to consider. I don’t think we need the most expensive camera nor top-notch post-editing techniques, what we need is an idea, and use that idea to combine the subject with appropriate post-editing techniques, and what are you hoping to achieve through this photo, we need to focus on making 1+1>2, the first “1” stands for shooting, the second “1” symbolizes post-editing, and the “+” in the middle is your idea, which is an essential part to make your photo stands out from the rest.

Because I shoot minimalism photos, as far as I am concerned, it shares the same difficult point as landscape photography, which is to find new shooting locations and angles that no one done it before. Normally, I would use the satellite map to first make a complete search of the city I am about to visit, and mark some worth exploring locations and when I get there, I will fly my drone and get the satisfying image I have imagined. As for non-aerial photos, I would always go to CBD area and some art museums to find inspiration, cause these places are just amazing, and you can always get some pretty results if you do a little bit exploring. And it will save you a lot of time since you have narrowed down your shooting area, and the saved time can be used for exploring different shooting angles.

Q: Which aspect of photography would you say was the hardest thing that you had to learn or get used to?

Anyone can press that button on the camera, and post-editing is also quite simple nowadays, but the trick is how to combine those two thing. Sometimes when I shoot a photo in horizontal composition and in the post-editing phase found out that this picture is more suitable for vertical composition, and this kind of situation can be quite normal and troublesome. Then I have no choice but to go over to that place again to take the shot. So when I out shooting, I always shot from many angles and in different compositions,I will make sure to leave enough room for error and.

And I also do many trials of post-editing, sometimes when I finished the final touches of the photo editing, at that moment, I was quite satisfy about the outcome, but few days later, when I come back to see it again, I might have a totally different idea, and I am sure that is the same case for many photographers, so we must leave enough room for error.

Q: You have been chosen Non-Professional Fine Art Photographer of the Year for your work “One,” a series that takes us on a journey to the cities of China, showing us a completely different view of the world, one that is embedded in shapes and colours. How did you come up with this concept?

It’s a project I’ve been doing for a long time, at first, the idea is only to capture the simplicity beauty of buildings, some interesting combinations between lines and colors. As I continued, I began to came up with a brand new idea, which is to combine Minimalist Photography with Street Photography. So I started to look for stories on the street and at the same time, stressing the unique beauty of minimalist composition and color.

The photos presented in the project is a summary of my long-term city exploring. I have traveled to many cities in China and taken hundreds of Minimalism pictures about colors and streets, I have met people with all kinds of different backgrounds. During the process, I found it absolutely amazing, the contrast between the small human and the big city we live in. Different colors means different emotions, but it all leads to the same-loneliness. The One is about people, the human element is always the highlight and focus of the picture, is about the stories behind this pictures

Q: What was your most favourite Chinese city to shoot in and why?

What do your see in this project ? A large area of color and structure, and this is what Shanghai can offer and this is why I love Shanghai the most. Shanghai is a lovely city with amazing buildings, I believe Shanghai is a magical city especially for many city photographers, there are so many special buildings and art centers, which gives us so many shooting choices. I also love the weather and lifestyle there and hope one day I can move there and continue my creation.

Q: Why did you decide on entering this particular series into the IPA?

In fact, before I submitted my photos to the competition, I went to ipa’s website and realized that I want to participate in the fine art category. So I did a research on the winning works of the past few years and analyzed it, from the theme, content to composition. Taking into consideration of my works and this fine art category, I made some tiny adjustments to my photos and I wanted to share it with all the photography lovers.

Q: What does winning this competition mean to you?

It’s a great encouragement to me, and I am deeply grateful for it. But winning this competition doesn’t mean my success, it’s more like a growth milestone for me. There is still a long way to go, and what I can do is keep shooting, keep learning. At the same time I will continue to participate in all kinds of competitions. And, I would like to thank IPA for giving me this award. For me, photography is a life-time thing and I will devote myself to it with all my passion.

Q: If you could do anything or go anywhere, what would your dream photography project be?

As a city dweller, I always want to go out the explore the nature, just take the camera and leave everything behind.
Minimalism is my favorite type of photography, and in recently years I have created hundreds of minimalist photos, but all of those are taken in the city area, and I want to extend it to the vast nature. There are so many unexplored places in our blue planet, apart from the conventional landscape photography, I want to create a project that combines Minimalism and Landscape in a unique way to create my version of “One and Only”

Q: What good advice would you give to a photographer who is just starting to experiment with photography?

I have been in this photography world for quite few years, I think many starters are quite impatient, they want to create new and special images when they barely familiar with the camera’s setting. Apart from that, many of them haven’t developed a sense of beauty, they don’t know what is a good photo. So I think one of the most important things for them is to develop their sense of beauty and at their initial stage of their photography, there is only one thing they can do to improve their shooting skills, that is watch, learn and practice. There are many amazing and talented photographers on social medias and they post amazing photos, some of which are taken in normal and accessible places such as city parks where we all can visit, beginners can go to the same location and try to take the same shot as those social bloggers’. Even the result is not so original and creative, and many people may have taken the same picture, but it doesn’t matter because in this process, we are slowly developing our sense of beauty, we begin to think what lens we should use and what composition we should adopt and why people love to take photos at this places. And most of all, you can feel the sheer joy of photography and gain a sense of achievement which are necessary for your future advancement. Once you’ve find your path, you can start explore your own shooting spots and take your own creative photos that no one has seen before.

Q: What is next for you, are you working on anything right now?

For the future, I don’t want to limit myself to only pursuing the minimalism beauty of photos. I want my future works can also tell a story,I want it to be more thought-provoking.

Currently, I am working as a photo editor in a company and I have to browse through thousands of photos, some photos are amazing, while others are less satisfying, I’d say my work has been a lot of help for my own project.

For me, there is still a long way to go, and I will keep exploring this amazing world and hopefully present people with more and more amazing photos.