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Rising Stars: Meet Yien Xu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yien Xu.

Hi Yien, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My passion has been fueled by visual influences throughout my life. Vibrant colors have attracted me ever since I was young, which my most prominent memories come from when I first saw the moving images on television. The most significant deciding factor in my youth was when I watched the movie Lord of the Rings, which inspired me to become a movie director. I encountered many obstacles to this goal, coming from a small town in China that had no directors, entertainment industry, related educational institutions, and no internet at the time. There was no way of obtaining any professional guidance and related knowledge to pursue my dreams of becoming a movie director, especially because STEM majors were considered successful in my hometown, and artistic endeavors were reserved for the students whose families were not financially secure. The environment of my hometown does not provide the soil with the proper nutrients for art. It would not provide any support for aspiring artists, which led to my decision to reluctantly choosing STEM as my major in high school.

The educational system in China is very different from the western world, with exams sprinkled throughout the school year that focuses on testing your abilities to understand the system and take exams. The three years I spent in high school were oppressive and ruined my joy of learning. In my final year of high school, the resistance I held against the system burst, and I decided to take the entrance exam for a film academy against the wishes and recommendations of my teachers and parents. I was not accepted into the film academy due to my lack of primary movie education, but I still refused to attend a regular university route despite this. I participated in the entrance exam for a STEM university, but I refused to answer any of the questions, scoring a 0. This was my resolve. I borrowed money from my parents and left my hometown for the first time to go to the larger city in the north to study computer animation. The program I chose would not give me a degree or a diploma, but I was thrilled to start my journey towards my lifelong dream.

After I graduated from the computer animation school, I went to Shanghai to find a job in an animation studio. In the largest city of China, I finally found a crowd that shared my passion. So, with my first year’s paycheck, I saved my money to buy a Sony-Ericsson mobile phone for work needs and made sure to get one with a camera to start my photography journey. At that time, social platforms were beginning to emerge. So, I took the opportunity to post the photos I took with my new phone, which got a lot of positive attention from my friends, giving me confidence in photography. In 2010, I eventually saved up enough money to buy my first camera, a Panasonic GF1, from Japan. The GF1 was a great camera, with professional functions, excellent lenses, great features, and I can finally use it to shoot professional works to build my photography portfolio.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The path to art is paved with thorns. Affluent families can devote a significant amount of money and time to their children’s art education. Children from low-income families like me have lacked resources and support. Fortunately, my abilities compensated for my lack of investment. However, my artistic journey remains challenging in the beginning. I needed to make money to survive when I was younger, and I needed to make money to support my family after I married. Reality had stifled my ability. I can only spend a certain amount of money and effort on creating new work. A lot of equipment and consumables are required for photography, as well as a lot of shooting to acquire experience. It took me a pretty long time to build up my reputation in the photography field in China. Hard work pays off; I was invited to exhibit at some prestigious art fairs in China, such as Shanghai Young Art Fair. In addition, I was named the silver prize-winner of the 2017 International Photo Awards (China). In the field, my remarks are growing increasingly forceful. I was asked to contribute articles to Photographers’ Companion and CAPA, two of the most prominent photography magazines. A lot of media entities offer me exclusive interviews. I understand how difficult it has been for me to achieve this level of accomplishment. I am grateful for all of the challenges that have made me stronger and better. I’ve also dedicated myself to leveraging my personal experiences to inspire children from low-income families who have a desire to pursue a career in photography.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
My name is Xu Yien, and I am a fine art photographer. My artworks are known for being contemporary art that manipulates the perspective of reality and re-representing the world through photography. My photography uses natural scenes with a different state of pure existence, which you can not find in the real world.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
While humans are typically seen as strong, the course of 2020 demonstrated the fragility of our world. While the world could only stay at home to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, waiting for the development and release of the vaccine, the virus continued to shake the world in fear. The past year has been a vital lesson for people to understand that our society has only focused on our own merits, but the most outstanding achievements come when the world works together to progress forward.

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