Sojourner in Lijiang
By: Charlie Trotman
Could you explain how you approached this work?
After showing some images I had taken of locals within a pub created over a 6 month period, I was assigned to document the ethnic minority of the Naxi and their declining culture in Yunnan, China. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to depict Naxi and Chinese culture in a way which would challenge western perceptions of China.
Do you feel you achieved this?
Yes, I think that the majority of the work humanises the culture of the Naxi people while providing a glimpse into their use of pictorial languages and tourism within Lijiang. Working with Chinese students of Beijing University, I was amazed by how well we bonded during the trip.
Usually, photographers are quite introverted, yet each member of our team was genuinely interested in finding out about life in Britain and talented in capturing their own vision of Lijiang on camera.
What other aspects did you enjoy in Lijiang?
I think my favourite memory of my time in Lijiang is when we all visited the KTV Karaoke Bar on a whim, singing dreadfully into the late night. I felt that I gained a personal insight into the Chinese way of life through the many communal dinners we shared. I love authentic Chinese food, though I’m not sure I’ll be going near any ‘Stinky’ Tofu anytime soon. Travelling through Lijiang, we also visited misty Naxi temples which were truly a very spiritual experience for me.
I found that life in China was very collective and inclusive in comparison to the British way of life. In Britain, teenagers are often quick to make fun of each other sometimes in a very mean spirited way, something which I picked up on in PP Wong’s The Life of a Banana. There were times where I felt that I stood out due to my blonde hair which gave me some sense of alienation that I haven’t experienced in european cities.
What is your favourite of these images?
I’m quite proud of Mirror, one of the Black and White photographs in this showcase, which depicts two twin boys carrying suitcases. You can really see how the landscape works with the main figures to make an interesting photograph, something which got me into photography in the first place. It would have been criminal to turn some of the images black-and-white but I felt this image needed to be seen in the way it’s presented.
Where are you next taking this exhibit?
Currently, this exhibition has been held at Beijing University and at The University of Northampton respectively. I have just finished a funded Masters at Swansea University and now am volunteering through Voluntary Service Overseas in Ikorodu, Nigeria. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maybe hold a mini exhibition for my host family while creating new work in Lagos. It will be a whole new challenge to me in how to depict a country differently.BW