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An Interview with Zihao Xu

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The images of life in one Chinese city have been brought to Le Moyne College through an exhibition of street photography from student Zihao Xu, a senior CMM major. On Feb. 15, a reception was held for the opening of his show, “Through the Glass,” in the lobby of the W. Carroll Coyne Center for the Performing Arts. The artwork will be on display until March 20.

At the reception, Xu transformed the space with his art. With just 29 photographs, displayed between three different walls, viewers were taken to the streets of China.

When Xu introduced his art to the crowd, it didn’t take long to see how passionate he was about his work. His words and expressions created inspiration along with the photographs that hung on the wall behind him.

Following is a Q&A with Xu:

Q: What inspired this project?
A: It was Professor Moore came to me last semester and he asked me if I wanted to do a photo show. I said yes. And he said that the bottom line is that I want you to show your culture.

Q: Was he the one to spark the idea to go back to China?
A: I would say yes. Also I am a minority and an international student and my english is not that good…so I realized I have to find a way to communicate with people. And for me photography is the most efficient way.

Q: How did a typical day of shooting go?
A: I woke up every day at 6 o’clock in the morning and then get out of my apartment, take pictures spend the whole day until about 9 o’clock at night. Sometimes I stayed out till 12 o’clock. I walk everywhere I never take any transportation, I walk through the whole city, because for me that’s just how you capture the authentic culture.

Q: How many pictures did you take and how many are in the show?
A: For this project roughly about 2,000 pictures. 29 [are in the show] but it was 51 pictures for the show originally, that’s how I wanted to show this. And for me it is really precious, you have to show your culture in 29 pictures. We have 1.4 billion people in our country. I mean even for my own city there is about 10 million people. And I am supposed to show them just those pictures.

Q: Did you ever run into problems while you were out shooting?
A: Yes of course, a lot like for this whole project about street photography I was actually doing this the past summer when I had my internship in (hometown) which was also a reporting internship… And I have my camera with me that has a very long lens… so I had a problem with that because when you have that kind of lens your camera is obvious… it was really hard taking pictures and so I changed for this project. I had to be smart, I had my small camera with me.

Q: What will your next project be?
A: It will probably be photographing USA.

Q: What do you think will be different about that?
A: Well it’s a lot of difference right? Because first of all we don’t have that population here but when you go to New York City it is kind of the same. But that’s the thing I haven’t figured out, whether I want to take pictures and still capture the urban area or I just go the direct way, finding empty space, maybe the village.

Q: Were there professors that impacted your journey with your art? How would you describe the impact of professors with your work?
A: Yes, a couple. Professor Moore. It is very interesting with our relationship because he wants to help me. Sometimes he blames me for torturing myself, he says why do I not just compromise. And this is like my baby, it’s like my child I don’t want to compromise, would you want to compromise your child? But he told me like art, no matter where the art is, it’s always about compromise, and I start to realize that yeah it is. Also, Professor Roche taught the class Photo Essay and it is pretty much about photo-journalism to tell a story. I never considered myself as a photographer, I consider myself as a storyteller.

Q: Do you know what you want to do after school?
A: No. I am applying for graduate school right now for three different majors. Financing, Advertising and film. I’m just gonna wait to see which one. Colombia University for film, Syracuse University for advertising and UCL and LCA for advertising in the UK.

Zihao Xu’s display of photography gives spectators an insight into a young and determined mind. This has not only been an achievement for himself, but has also been a success in the eyes of his mentors.

“I can honestly say that I have never been that quite dedicated to something [shooting all hours of the day],” Professor Moore said. “As a teacher, if you can inspire a student to really go after a subject that is a result of your class, that is a good feeling.”

Moore has been an educational figure in Xu’s career here at Le Moyne.
“When I think of Zihao and I think of compromise, it’s compromising his expectations or standards of what a show could be. He was a little difficult to work with at times but that was a reflection of his desire to keep his standards very high” Moore said. “In a sense, that is very admirable about him.”

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An Interview with Zihao Xu