Yi-fan Wu

2022 Non-Professional Architecture Photographer of the Year

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to where you are today.
Hello! I’m Yi-fan Wu, a senior high school student who currently studies at the Music Middle School affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of Music. My major is piano playing. I am self-taught and became interested in photography two years ago when I was 15. At first, I was deeply fascinated by the marvelous cityscape of my hometown Shanghai when I stand up high overlooking the massive urban area. Since then, I bought a Canon 6D2 camera and managed to capture the view of countless skyscrapers in every corner of the city. Fortunately, I was awarded the third place in Architecture-Cityscape category of 2021 IPA for my work ‘The window of Shanghai’. This was my first attempt to participate in such an international photography competition at such a high level, hence it had a significant impact on me and gave me a profound motivation to stick to photography—though it was just a hobby of mine in my leisure time. In 2021, I felt that it was hard to maintain originality in shooting cityscapes. Thus, I tried to develop a new kind of style which was minimalism. By showing simple color combination and contrast of light and shade, I shot some minimalism works which was later awarded third place in 2022 Paris PX3 competition and first place in 2022 Trierenberg Super Circuit. And in the following year, owing to the outbreak of the epidemic in Shanghai, I was forced to stay at home so this gave me a perfect opportunity to reexamine my previous work. And shortly after I can go out and take pictures, I used a drone to shoot the top view of a building in the financial district in Shanghai and surprisingly the structure deeply attracted me since it has a stunning similarity with silicon chips in micro. This gave me the idea of shooting a series called “城市之‘芯’“ which means ‘city circuits” in English to explore the close connection between urbanization and integration. Not long after I finished this work, I made an attempt to participate in this year’s IPA and fortunately I was awarded the Architecture Photographer of the Year!

Q: Why did you choose to submit this specific work to the IPA?
The reason is rather simple. Due to the lockdown, I only created one series in 2022 which is the “city circuits”. Actually, this year I focused more on thinking and reading than going out to take more photos.

Q: What does winning this competition mean to you?
It surely means a great deal to a young photographer! I am really excited to win Architecture Photographer of the Year (Non-Professional). Winning this award gave me courage to continue exploring the great world of photography. If my major is not in the piano, perhaps I might try to become a professional photographer!

Q: You won Architecture Photographer of the Year with your stunning work, “城市之“芯””. Could you share the concept behind your artwork?
As I mentioned above in the first question, this series was born under a fantastic coincidence. I tried to show the roof structure of the office building in the core financial district of Shanghai by using the drone to look down from a 90-degree aerial view. The structural pattern is separated from the context of the urban landscape and placed on a simple background, which enables the viewer to focus on the details of pure architecture and show its similarity to the high-tech chip image taken at macro, so as to explore the close connection between urbanization and integration.

Q: What other photographers have impacted your own work, methods, or style?
There are plenty of great photographers that have made an impact on my own work. So I’ll list a few of them below. The photographers that influenced my series “city circuits” most are the famous Bernd & Hilla Becher. My idea of typology directly came from their work, the famous Water Towers. Also, I was extremely obsessed with works of photographers like Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer. Their works had given me inspirations either directly or indirectly. Interestingly, what motivated me to put my idea into practice was a series called Pools 2016 by photographer Stephen Zirwes. (I vaguely remember that he won an award in the 2016 IPA and 2019 SWPA) At first I tried to imitate his style to shoot pools with drone but soon I was attracted by the roof structures and I began to work on this winning series which took me just 2 weeks to complete.

Q: What do you feel are the key steps to achieving great images?
I think this question is far too broad and esoteric for me to answer. But still, I think the topic you choose to discuss in your work, not the technique used in your work (to be more bold, the medium you use can not even be photography), is the key factor that determines the depth and height your work can reach. After all, all elements and aspects relating to your photo serve for your topic.

Q: How did you develop your personal style?
I hardly can be saying that I have achieved my own personal style since strictly speaking, I am not a mature photographer. I still have a long way to go. But I can list some of my ways to get inspirations:

  1. Pay attention to some international photography competitions like IPA, SWPA and Hasselblad Masters Awards. You can learn a great deal as well as get inspirations in the works of the grand prize winner in these competitions.
  2. Think with an open and creative mind. Do not be afraid to jump put of the barriers. I think it is necessary to dare to question the homogenization in photography.
  3. Read widely. A photographer should be good at absorbing knowledge form all aspects and turning it into your own style.

Q: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of becoming a photographer?
Be original. Be creative. Think in depth and in width. These are the abilities I consider to be difficult for a mature photographer.

Q: What are the elements that drive your photography? What motivates and focuses you?
My obsession with the details of an architecture to show a sense of calmness and objectiveness.

Q: What would your ideal photography project be if you could do anything or travel anywhere?
I wouldn’t say that I will travel to work on my photography project as this is a long-term practice and requires a familiarity with the urban space my project focuses on, which is the city of Shanghai. I would like to explore the architectures and spaces in Shanghai more comprehensively. I’ve got lots of interesting ideas for my project which I haven’t worked on due to my busy schedule. I planned to shoot a series of photos in Gursky-like style to demonstrate the 90-degree view of some giant factories in the suburb of Shanghai. I’ve long been fascinated by the details of industrial architectures and the deadpan aesthetic in photography. But this unborn project is really hard since it’s nearly impossible for a DJI drone to shoot pictures with massive size and amazing details which are two key factors to this kind of photos.

Q: What’s next for you? Are you currently working on anything exciting?
I’ve got lots of ideas in my mind but currently I’m so busy with piano playing and I haven’t been working on my project for several months. If I have sufficient time, first I would like to make a deep dig into my winning series which means I have to look beyond the superficial similarity between urbanization and integration and find some more serious issues relating to sociology to discuss in my series. Second, I would like to study the history of photography systematically since it’s the basis for further improvement. Third, I would like to try to enter the realm of contemporary photography a little bit to explore a wider and more profound field. This requires more professional learning, more open thinking and deeper interdisciplinary knowledge reserve. I always regard myself as a junior learner who practically know nothing about the field of photography since it is a certain medium of fine art which requires professional learning and talent just like classical music. And speaking of music, my last wish in the future is to combine some concepts of contemporary composers like Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage with my own works. I always hold an opinion that in the context of contemporary of art, the boundaries between different branches of fine art are being blurred. Photography is just one of the mediums to discuss various topics. This is another road with no end waiting for me to explore. Maybe someday in the future I will find my own style or maybe I won’t but I always remember in the field of photography, I am just a humble apprentice who still have a long way ahead of me.