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Meet Jinyao Yuan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jinyao Yuan.

Jinyao, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in a small city in China. After high school, I went to Australia to pursue my dream in photography. I learned commercial photography as well as documentary photography in Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University). I am passionate about photography and find that photography is an ideal visual language to communicate my thoughts. I feel that looking at a photograph is like reading into someone’s eyes, and you will see a story, an idea, emotions, and humanity. In 2015, I came to the States to start a new journey and explore fine art in photography. Now, I am about to finish my studies for a Master’s degree in Fine Art Photography at Savannah College of Art and Design. I have been living overseas for a decade and am always surprised- most times confused- by the divided values and beliefs of different cultures. An unshakable conviction in one culture may be absurd in others. We all live in our own bubbles that we call “reality”. Because of this, I wonder whether there is a way to approach truth and real reality. Or, do they exist? I wish to understand the world; I wish to understand myself. I always keep these questions in my mind, consciously or unconsciously, while creating my photography work. They are the core of my work. My recent work is mainly about exploring the relationship between isolated individuals and the infinite universe.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Not really. It is easier to follow other people’s path and create something similar. However, it has never been a smooth road to create original work and establish one’s own style. It relies on self-reflection, which is the most difficult part. I had suffered from losing myself and tried hard to find myself back. For a while, I felt that everything has lost their meanings: people work like machines; animals are raised as food; artworks become tools to gain wealth and fame. During that period, I could not create any work, until one day I encountered a pinhole camera, which is a lighttight box with a super tiny pinhole on it. It has no advanced functions or sophisticated technologies. It is the origin of photography. I was fascinated by its simplicity and began to carry a pinhole camera with me wherever I go. I like to place the camera next to me while I am gazing at the place and completing the past and future. The camera is just standing there and collecting the light as time passes by.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I’m an artist and also a freelance photographer. Most time, I work on my own projects. I also do commercial photography such as studio portraits, location portraits, and product photography. For my artwork, I am specialized in black and white film photography, darkroom printing, and platinum/palladium printing. I value creativity, quality, and flexibility. For commercial work, I am specialized in studio and location photography, photo retouching, and museum-quality digital printing. I am also interested in book design and producing short videos. My education background provides me the knowledge and skills that I need to produce high-quality commercial work.

What were you like growing up?
My parents are doctors of traditional Chinese medicines. Their job is to diagnose issues and find solutions for patients, which is also what I am always trying to do- find out the root of problems and solve them. One of my professors at RMIT once said that the nature of photography is to solve problems. Photographers have to constantly dealing with all kinds of problems- technical problems, psychological and emotional conflicts, and social issues, etc. It feels so good when I can use photography to solve some problems.

Another important part of my photography work is humanity. Growing up in a family with two doctors, the first thing I learned from my parents is to care about other people. This mindset affects my photography work. Robert Frank said that “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” And I agree with him.

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Jinyao Yuan

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