“I always carried a little snapshot camera with me as a child, but I started taking photography more seriously when I was a teenager living in Beijing. After graduating from high school, I started studying photography at Berlin’s Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie,” Amelie Kahn-Ackermann tells It’s Nice That. Amelie has spent her entire life in metropolises; born in Beijing and studying in Berlin, the cosmopolitan photographer is accustomed to the fast-paced intensity of urban life. Her latest series Sijiagou – Remembering Home, however, is a celebration of one of China’s most remote regions, the home of her grandfather’s village, Sijiagou. Populated by far-reaching hills and magnificent mountain ranges, Sijiagou is made up of a small community of people whose days are determined by seasonal changes and manual labour.
Amelie’s grandfather left Sijiagou at the age of 16, never to look back. His siblings, however, remained in Yunnan’s isolated hamlet and it was Amelie’s uncle who first introduced the photographer to the family after 40 years of silence. “When I went to Sijiagou for the first time I was fascinated by my relatives’ lives; their daily habits were so immensely different to life in Beijing. So I decided to start working on a project about this small mountain village,” the photographer explains. The result is a sensitive and insightful portrayal of a rural community’s inevitably close relationship to its environment. In combining intimate portrait shots and expansive landscape photographs, Amelie provides Sijiagou – Remembering Home with a contextual framework, offering the viewer a more detailed glimpse into these people’s lives.
Despite Sijiagou – Remembering Home’s considered and carefully composed images, Amelie didn’t stage any of her photographs. Instead, the artist engaged with the community, participated in their daily activities and followed their routines. It was during these seemingly mundane interactions that Amelie would look for moments to capture. “I generally work in 6×6 with a Rolleiflex and I look for clear and focused compositions and soft, natural light. Contrasting colours and interesting combinations are also very important to me,” Amelie says. Her sensitive presentation of this southwestern Chinese province is in part due to her immaculate photographic arrangements and an enviable ability to distill delicate colours. Sijiagou – Remembering Home is both an honest representation of an isolated rural community and an intimate, nostalgia-driven tribute.
“The series can tell different stories. Perhaps it is about a vanishing society, a record of something soon to be gone. It is also a story about a rough but beautiful area where life goes on at a different pace. The name of the village Sijiagou means ‘remembering home’, which is in a way what I am doing in this series.”
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