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Photographer brings true face of Germany into focus

By Fu Jing in Berlin | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-07-08 00:25

Photographer brings true face of Germany into focus

Zhao Hui and Li Chen study photos they have taken during their long exploration of Germany. [Photo by Fu Jing/China Daily]

Photographer Zhao Hui has built a successful career capturing the smiling and beautiful faces of ordinary Chinese people living in the mountains, on the streets, and even in temples.

His impressions of China formed the basis, a few years ago, of the China Story exhibition, which is a series of striking photographic portraits that aims to tell the rich and fascinating stories of China through the faces of its everyday people.

The exhibition traveled to the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Russia, and Japan, with one reviewer describing the images as "alive, moving and extremely human".

For his latest project, Zhao is flipping the idea around; turning his lens on European faces to showcase them in China.

Zhao, who lives in Beijing and who is accompanied on his trip to Germany by wife Li Chen, said his aim is to capture the spirit and diversity of his subjects through his lens. As he drives across the country, he looks out for inspiring moments on the street, interesting roads, and activities in forests, villages, and even islands.

His work is highly regarded and has won recognition, especially in Germany where the office of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has invited him to take photos during the visit of President Xi Jinping. The German embassy in China is also planning an exhibition of his work to mark the 45th anniversary of Sino-German diplomatic relations.

Zhao, who was born in Jiangsu province, graduated from Nanjing Normal University in 1985 and moved to New York in 1987 to study photography.

He said people in different countries require different approaches: While Italians are open and bright, Germans often wear serious faces and can be reserved.

"You must have long and state-of-the-art lens and you can only operate from far away, without being noticed," Zhao said during an interview in Berlin. "We have nearly 60,000 stunning photos, which are rare treasures for us."

Zhao said he wants to find the characters of ordinary Germans and uncover the country's culture and history.

Of the thousands of photos in his collection, a favorite is a picture of a German postman with a ring of keys on his belt. Zhao said it turned out that he had the keys so he could open doors to homes in the village.

"The simple and deep trust in that small community was inspiring," said Zhao.

He also enjoyed taking photos at a soccer match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and has pictured the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, in Hamburg, which will host a concert this week marking the G20 Summit.

"This is a landmark building in Germany, with a red-brick base and glass structure on top, curved windows and a roof that resembles the crest of a wave," said Zhao. "In my opinion, this is a mixture of the modern and traditional elements of Germany, which I love so much."

Yan Huan contributed to this story

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