“I’m interested in weirdness, I guess that’s the source of the mysteriousness some people see in my images. I don’t send a direct and specific message to the audience. My work is a personal reflection on things.”
It was a warm afternoon in the mid 2017 when I inadvertently discovered Li Hui’s beautiful and sensitive world through the lens of her camera. Through her body of work, she adopts an experiments approach, including the use of multiple exposures to layer the human body with natural imagery.
I talked to her about her sensitive, yet cinematic photographs captured with film cameras that picture a wonderful vulnerability, or in her words: ‘a delicate fragility’.
“I started getting into the world of film cameras when I became fascinated with some double exposures I stumbled upon online. I always try to capture what’s on my mind, what I see, what I smell, what I hear – be it people, animals or nature,” she answered when I asked her about how he get into photography in the very first time.
She then explained that surprise and serendipity are few things that photography can offer, which fascinates her in a way.
“The most important thing is that I’m able to create my own personal image of the world through photography,” she said, adding that she has ‘a strong curiosity about photography’.
“I want to challenge my self and explore new themes in order to keep progressing.”
Our conversation continued with her learning process as a self-taught photographer. She admitted that it’s not difficult to become a self-taught photographer these days, “But it is crusial that you have a very personal style of expression and a certain understanding of aesthetic.”
She then explained that there have been advantages, but also drawbacks of being a self-taught photographer.
“I abandoned some rules, so I was able to be more creative instead of just following traditional ideas,” she said.
However, she admitted that sometimes her own ideas can be limited by not having the right technical equipment to achieve a certain effect that she’s looking for.
“For me, the most valuable thing is the process of learning, trying everything that is possible or that may even seem impossible at first,” she added.
“I like to experiment with everything.”
“Every photographer has their basic rules in terms of photography, what’s yours?,” I asked.
“You must feel that it is worth it to press the shutter,” she muttered. “Even a simple composition should have some interesting details,” she then added.
“I always try not to waste too much film.”
She then explained that people often see her works as delicate, otherworldly, tender and mysterious. While for her, a sense of delicate fragility might be a them that runs through most of her works.
“I compare the simplicity of beautiful things, but I also look for some unusual and strange details.”
“I’m interested in weirdness, I guess that’s the source of the mysteriousness some people see in my images,” she said, adding that she rarely send a direct and specific message to the viewers”
“My works is a personal reflection on things.” she clarified.
Movies is one of her inspiration to get into photography. She said that it taught her a lot about composition, the effects that lighting can have and how to express human emotions through images.
Coming-of-age movies, LGBTQ-themed movies and movies by female directors or any movies about a certain female theme are genres that inspire her.
“But I also like unusual, dark, cold or cruel stories,” she added.
“How bout music?,” I asked.
“I would say I’m mostly inspired by dark ambient, but I also get much inspiration from other kinds of music. I don’t limit myself, I listen to all kinds of genres,” she said.
When I first saw her photographs, I definitely feels the nuances of intimacy and warmth. I then asked her what stimulates her to photographs such theme.
Intimacy has been her main theme of her photographs throughout 2017, she said. It was a continuation and an update of some past themes she was exploring, so she feel like she’s been getting a deeper understanding.
“The closer I get, the better my grasp of human feelings and emotions.”
“Lately, I’ve wanted to increasingly try my hands on the concept of still life.”
In addition to that, light and shadow, and nature as well, seems to be her major theme. “Could you explain your feeling about that?,” I asked.
She confirmed that these three things have been the subjects she shoot, “They become a main element of my pictures.”
“Natural things are the most difficult to capture as they are constantly changing. So I want to freeze them in place and capture them as an image of my own world.”
Aside from delicate vulnerability and warmth, what makes me wonder about her works is that all of her photographs never shot the face of its subjects and focus on their body part.
Part of the reason on that, she explained, is her own personality.
“I don’t think a face can represent a person’s true feelings,” she told me.
“I want to express somebody’s inner state by catching body movements that are easily missed.”
In addition to that, we often saw light leaks and flares, and sometimes in multi-exposure photos which add surreality to her works.
She admitted that this was done very much on purpose.
“Sometimes,” she said, “there are some strange pictures floating around in my mind. So I try to let the photography show the world that I see. “
Meanwhile, in the process of shooting double exposure, she needs to have enough patience, a clear judgment and a certain set of skills since she can’t see the result before all the negatives are developed.
“I don’t want the resulting pictures to look dissonant, they should melt together perfectly.”
“The way I understand surrealist images is that they must be somewhat rooted in reality to a certain degree but at the same time leave people with a sense of suspicion and wonder,” she added.
For instance, she said, she doesn’t want her double exposures to stand out as such, “I want them to create one coherent image.”
On September last year, she had just published her latest book ‘No Word From Above.’
“I don’t want to impose my subjective view on the audience, I want people to find their own definition and let their own ideas influence what they see,” she answered my question about the message she’s trying to say in that book.
“A certain ambiguity can give people more room to use their imagination.”
She then explained that what she wanted to show was the sheer diversity of nature and life, that even though society promotes uniformity, human interaction can overcome social constraints.
“I’m in awe of human nature and its complexity,” she added.
“Through light and shadow, I was trying to focus on the intimate relationship between humans and nature.”
“Although this series of works seems to capture rare beautiful moments,” she said, “careful observation reveals that these images are just fleeting moments in our everyday lives that are often ignored.”
After publishing ‘No Word From Above’, she said to me that she got a lot of support and affirmation.
“I’m now preparing my next book. I think it will come as a surprise, as it will feature previously unpublished works and include some pieces that I wrote in the past describing some surreal scenes as part of a novel that I never published.”