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Conversations with the Inspiring Keyao Zhu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keyao Zhu.

Keyao, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a photographer, came to Los Angeles two years ago and love digital and film photography. I worked as an intern in the marketing department of Harper‘s BAZAAR in China. My some works were featured on Vogue Italia, and some of my works are published on FYAN magazine. I will have a group exhibition at Exhibit A Gallery in Los Angeles in September.

I started painting at the age of 10 until I was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, one of the best art schools in China. When I was a sophomore, I began to contact photography and found that although I loved photography, I lacked much knowledge of photography, so I decided to come here to study for a master’s degree in photography. But the painting background is also very helpful to my photography, I am more sensitive to the composition and color of photography.

The first SLR camera in my life was bought in my sophomore. With curiosity and love, I took pictures everywhere. Although the exposure was wrong, I enjoyed the process very much. And soon, I began to go out to work and read books about photography in school while working and practicing. With the attitude of learning photography at work, I slowly began to shoot some behind the scenes, concert, activity and then work as an assistant to the photographer in the studio. After that, I began to shoot in the studio for my creative pictures. But when I was shooting in the studio, I was not confident because I had not learned how to set the lights and how to direct the pose of the model. Since then, I found that my knowledge of photography and experience in the studio are totally lacked.

Self-confidence comes from the recognition of self-ability. I knew at that time that my ability needs to be improved! So, I came here, professional practice,a lot of shooting and theoretical reading make me full of self-confidence, and know that no matter what I do, I have to believe in my eyes and heart.

During my years in Los Angeles, my horizons also were broadened. Los Angeles is a place of great tolerance for other cultures. I’ve met friends from all over the world and heard interesting stories that I’ve never heard before, which has enabled me to look at the world and problems from different perspectives. Everything I see and hear will become my shooting material in the future, so thank the city of Los Angeles for bringing more creativity to my brain.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The difficulty is the most painful thing on the forward way for everyone, but it also the way to become a better self.

For me, I used to fall into the situation of self-denial, always think that my work is not good, can not find my own style. So, at that time, I would calm down and read a lot of famous photographers works and art books. At that stage, I learned a lot and began to find my own style slowly. Therefore, difficulties are the beginning of our progress.

But my current difficulty should be to find a stylist who can work together to create better works for the audience.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
When I was learning to paint, I liked to mix the colors on the palette to create a new color. And then, when I came into contact with photography, I was also fascinated by colors. Different hue will bring different feelings to the audience as well as create a sense of power on the photos. I like Vivian Maier’s color works. I think her works are not only very particular about composition and color but also have a sense of humor. She is good at capturing the real side of the model. Through her works, I seem to be able to smell the air in the street, feel the different personality of each person, and the distance between the audience and the model is suddenly narrowed. Colors are my favorite. I have a project called Colorful People. You can see it on my website. My exhibition works in September are also about colors, called Red+Green+Blue.

I like all the colorful things. I went to the Pacific Aquarium a while ago and visited all kinds of magical creatures. I can’t help feeling: Nature is the best artist! Because the color matching of these creatures is so vivid, I wonder if I use the color matching of these creatures as my inspiration, it must be cool!

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
I grew up in a very democratic family in China, and my parents respected every decision I made when I was very young. I decided to study painting, decide which high school I went to, who I fell in love with, which university I went to, and go abroad. My life is totally planned by myself, so I bravely accept every result and take responsibility for my every decision.

When I was 9 years old, I studied calligraphy in an interest class, which had two different courses, calligraphy, and painting. Every time I practice writing, I noticed other students’drawing boards on the desk and excellent paintings on the wall, which makes me full of interest in painting. A few days later, I asked my mum to meet my teacher and tell he that I would like to learn painting, but the teacher told my mum that not all students can learn, they should have talent. When my mum came home and told me about it, I was very upset. I haven’t mentioned painting for a week, but every time I practice writing in class and see beautiful works on the wall, I can’t help but want to learn painting.

So once again, I asked my mum to talk to the teacher. My mum also felt that I could not have a talent for painting, because no one in our family was learning the art. But when she asked the teacher again, the teacher said, let her come next time and try, if she has the talent, she can learn painting. Since that time, painting has been with me for eight years. Finally, I was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the most excellent art college in China. So, we must stick to our choice, no matter what others say, do not try, never know what the result will be.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kuangyu Lin, Yingda Shang, Maureen Lin

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