Chinese photographer Chen Man merges art with fashion in her fantastical creative style. Building upon her muses’ natural beauty, Chen accentuates each feature to perfection and delves deeper to create an illusion of high fashion photography melded with a captivating piece of fine art.
We were delighted to invite Chen Man to relocate herself in front of the camera for the Moments in Light photography series by Mary McCartney. Her talent and insight of photography means that she has continuously inspired and single-handedly revolutionised her art form.
Chen was invited to London for a photoshoot on a dramatic rooftop setting with Mary McCartney where she was shot against a backdrop of the city’s skylines.
“If you use your heart,
each moment will be
a special one in
At De Beers, we are consistently inspired by the diamond’s natural beauty – what inspires you?
Every individual lives in imagination. Our imagination is unlimited, but the way of expression is limited. So just enjoy being a professional fan, write a poem, compose a melody for the people you like.
What made you decide upon a career in art?
I started to learn painting when I was 2 years old, which eventually led to my graduation from Central Academy of Fine
Arts, Beijing. The main atmosphere of my whole life has been artistic. I focused on painting and sculpture-based traditional arts when I was in school and never really considered being a photographer. Back then, artists didn’t really make money; it was hard and few people paid attention to you. When I shot for VISION magazine back in 2003, I was still in college and no one did post-productions on photos. I was not a photographer in the photography industry because my works look like paintings; though nor was I an artist in the art industry because my works were published in fashion magazines. I was in a very unique position back then!
When did you feel that you had achieved success?
It was really when celebrities began to ask for me to shoot, which encouraged my transition to become a mainstream fashion photographer.
After I had worked with a lot of well-known faces, I started to work on a Chinese contemporary background series. This series was very special to me, as I was the first fashion photographer to bring Chinese contemporary faces and backgrounds into mainstream fashion. China was used to copying Japanese, Korean or Western styles; so it really was a milestone to create our own fashion. This group of photos included one with Lu Yan on the Great Wall – probably the most famous of the series – and was the first time that a mainstream fashion magazine shoot had shot in this location.
Has there been a particular Moment in Light in your career so far?
In 2012 I collaborated with i-D magazine on the subject of “youthful”. I was invited as a special editor and decided to use everyday people instead of celebrities. The central idea was to ‘use the least resources and the highest intelligence to reach harmony between man and nature.’ With this in mind I tried to find people from animal preservation groups, groups dedicated to reducing carbon emissions, organic farmers and so on. I also tried to find people with unique personalities, skills and ethnic backgrounds and bring them together as a group that was diverse and non-conformist. I also wanted to choose young people and bring together musicians of different styles who wouldn’t usually play together and help them cooperate. I took the opposing styles of rock ‘n’ roll singers, hip hop groups and traditional Chinese performers and took one group photo of them.
I also collaborated with M.A.C on a project called “Love and Water”; the basic concept coming from the traditional environmental ideas of Taoism. I used a modern visual language to represent this in my design. Love and Water are the most fundamental elements in the spiritual and material worlds for human beings. These were the two most special moments in my career.
What are your next goals or aspirations? What projects are you working on?
Recently I have been preparing for my solo exhibition in the LA Louver Gallery. It will start in November 2014. I am not the type of person with clear plans. The past is passed and the future has not happened yet, so I love to enjoy the moment of right now.
Did you enjoy your photoshoot with Mary McCartney?
It was a special experience to be in front of the camera instead of behind of it. The shoot in London was very cold and windy, however the photography went very well. It was a very impressive experience with lots of unexpected moments. Mary is a very individual person, she is so approachable, cool and very warm.
Are you pleased to be working in support of the Women for Women Foundation?
I feel so honored to work with the Women for Women Foundation. The organisation helps women in war zones; not by providing them with goods and materials but by actually teaching them real skills which the women can get a life-long benefit from. Women for Women gives the women spiritual support and teaches them skills; these are very precious.
Do you have a woman that inspires you in your life or that has inspired you?
Mother Teresa devoted her entire life to help the people that the ordinary people don’t pay close attention to or don’t even dare to pay attention to. She cared for them, hugged them, and helped them. Like she said: The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow – be good anyway.
How would you advise other women to achieve their dreams?
My suggestion is be honest with yourself. Don’t care too much about what other people say or care about too much about the appearance. Find your own direction and stick with it; just be yourself.