Wu Lie Wei’s work is an ode to the Chinese youth

The Ningbo-based photographer chooses the point-and-shoot over the DSLR in his documentation of youth culture in China.

12 August 2021

Photography can be one of the most powerful ways to capture the moments of unbridled emotion that mark our youth. Most street photographers become familiar with the genre by shooting the people from their daily lives, new friends and strangers that fill the quiet moments and add vibrancy to their lives like the Mile End skaters photographed by duo Lola and Pani. Capturing the transitional generation of youths in China, photographer Wu Lie Wei tries to depict the natural state of the people in his life without modification.

“I was born in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province in China, a seaside city,” Lie Wei tells It’s Nice That. “I came into contact with photography when I was in college. At that time, my mother bought me a Canon Digital SLR camera, so I traveled everywhere and played while shooting. At that time, I felt that photography really opened another way of my life. It was so interesting.” After falling in love with photography, he filled the gaps in his knowledge by going to the library and reading photography and art books, and taking inspiration from the films he watched.

As opposed to more professional equipment, Lie Wei chooses a point-and-shoot camera with a flash attached to capture the aforementioned unmodified natural state. “The subjects I usually shoot are also the young people living in China around me. They are vivid and lovely,” he says. “A lot of fun and new things happen everyday. I want to express the state of the young Chinese people through my camera lens.”


Copyright © Wu Lie Wei, 2021

Much of his work explores the relationship between humans and nature, told through a series of photographs that tells a narrative much like a cinematic storyboard. “If the audience can find their own shadow in my photos, then I will be happy. If they see that they are angry or that provokes them, it might just be a metaphor that I wanted the audience to think about,” Lie Wei says. One of his projects explores what he felt was a delicate yet underexplored subject that people around him experience. “I have a project to shoot the body and sex life of the young people in China. This topic has always been very sensitive in China, but everyone actually has contact with it.”

“Recently, I have learned a lot. The deepest feeling is that everything is not as direct as people think. The world is not only black and white. There are many things that we can see without eyes, so we need to feel with our own heart,” he says. One personal project, Memorial Walk, marks the death of his grandmother as he embarks on a walk in her memory. “I used my photography to express the story about the time I spent with my grandmother when I was a child and the feeling of sending her to the hospital for injection and medicine every week at that time. I think life is really short. It is very important to cherish everyone around you, and photography is the best means of commemoration.”

Lie Wei currently runs a vintage shop in Ningbo and plans to experiment with music and fashion in the future. Though photography is not his only outlet, he mentions a project that he plans to shoot until he dies, titled The Best of Time. “It contains the young Chinese I have been shooting. I look forward to their feeling of growing up with me. I usually shoot at will. I like to play in the most natural state. I carry my camera with me to capture those wonderful moments,” he says. “Most of my shots have a general picture feeling in my head. I will predict the next picture in advance, and then prepare to enter the state with the camera in advance,” he concludes.

GalleryCopyright © Wu Lie Wei, 2021

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Copyright © Wu Lie Wei, 2021

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About the Author

Alif Ibrahim

Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.

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