Yao Lu

Yao Lu, Beijing-based artist and Professor of Photography at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China: It was about 30 years ago when I first came across a photo on the back page of ‘A Concise History of Photography’. At that time, I was already obsessed and fascinated by photography, so I decided to closely study this new possession. It was not easy to find books on photography like this in late 80s China, so once I had discovered this book, I was consumed by it.

I didn’t understand its entire contents and their implications, but that was unimportant. I threw myself into it, page by page, until the last photo - Girl holding kitten by Bruce Davidson; it was this picture that stole my heart. The photo is of a young person, she looks like a rambler with a kitten in her arms - are they sharing the same fate? The look in her eyes says so much: confusion, loss, melancholy. It was so captivating, I could hardly bear to look at it. Perhaps everyone has it in their heart to go out to see the world just like her.

In the years when people were still restricted to travel abroad, I shared the sentiment in the photograph, which was unique to that era in China, and this photo precisely expressed what I felt. Even today, every time I turn the pages of this book, I can’t help but stop for a while, reflecting.

I did try different mediums to express and to achieve that level of excellence, but other art forms have to be edited and more involved by the artist. And yet, with photography, there is a split second to capture that magical moment; a photographer must apply his skill so quickly with sensitivity, empathy and understanding. Then the work is produced. Ever since then, I have come to respect Bruce Davidson as a great photographer, and photography as a profession.

Today, I have come a long way with my own photography, but it is this photograph that has led me to this route and will always remain in my heart for the rest of my life.

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