“I look at the world around me with love”: Sirui Ma on cherishing the small moments

Little Things Mean a Lot is a project defined by a sense of peace, intuition and exploration. It leaves no stone – or mushroom – unturned.

4 July 2024

If there’s one thing that drives Sirui Ma’s recent series, it’s love. Love for her friends, a love for nature and a love for the small moments, those that bring unexpected joy – it even takes its name from one of the songs Sirui loves most, Bettye Swann’s 1969 single Little Things Mean a Lot. But what the series does so beautifully is show how, in Sirui’s eyes, none of these loves are separate – they’re all one and the same. They form an intricate, interconnected web; a web that has made London the home Sirui cherishes, and the person she is today.

Sirui was last featured on It’s Nice That back in 2020, as part of our The Graduates series (now The Next Generation) – which celebrates the most exciting emerging creative talent. Since then, a lot’s changed for Sirui, “I could write an essay about it!”, she says. But namely, she’s been taking time to focus solely on personal projects, one of which being the beautiful Little Things Mean a Lot. In particular, “this project was driven by a desire to create a project that communicates to people both who I am as an artist, and also who I am as a person, through the depictions of the women in my life and the environment that surrounds me,” she says.

GallerySirui Ma: Little Things Mean a Lot (Copyright © Sirui Ma, 2024)

When beginning the series, Sirui says she didn’t really have a “vision” per se. Shoot days were “unstructured”, and just as much a means of spending time with her friends as taking photographs, “we would just hang out and walk around, and I happened to have my camera”, she says. This approach allowed Sirui to capture moments that wouldn’t have been possible if the series was entirely staged, letting her lead on intuition; she allowed herself to be drawn to moments that intrigued her rather than planning ones she thought she should be taking.

It’s perhaps the most unsuspecting moments that have resulted in the most striking images, like the image of Sirui’s friend Lily at a tube station. After a day spent together, the image arose after Sirui tried to work her way through the final few images on her roll of film – a feeling many photographers will know well. The image has a palpable sense of peace about it, the afterglow of a day spent with a loved one, but the promise of home looming too. Or there’s the image of a love note Sirui found outside her old flat. “It must have flown out of the trash somewhere and that’s a little heartbreaking,” says Sirui. “It’s kind of mysterious, with no names on it, but it’s still really beautiful and romantic.”

The time of day in which Sirui has chosen to shoot, and the resulting tones and light exposure give the series a dream-like, ethereal feel, something also accentuated by her shots of nature; two pristine deer making their way through a field or the strong branches of a tree reaching up out of shot, which gives the feeling that their growth could be endless. But it’s the mystical quality of mushrooms that Sirui is most drawn to. “I’ve been fascinated by them for a while,” says Sirui. “Not quite animal or plant, mushrooms have these almost alien qualities to them.” Shown sprouting from a moss-covered branch, or placed under the nose of a friend mimicking a flower, Sirui highlights these alien qualities, their long stalks and strange textures – against the very real figures of her friends.

Though, interestingly, Sirui sees mushrooms and her friends as much more linked than we may think. “They form underground networks that help other species, such as trees, communicate with one another,” she says. “That’s so magical to me.” It’s this fact that Sirui recognises as being reflected in the series as a whole, the web of connections between her and her friends, as well as the connections between fleeting moments and snippets of everyday life, all held together in harmony by an almost imperceptible thread.

GallerySirui Ma: Little Things Mean a Lot (Copyright © Sirui Ma, 2024)

Hero Header

Sirui Ma: Little Things Mean a Lot (Copyright © Sirui Ma, 2024)

Share Article

About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.