Travel is the best education

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He Xunyi, born in 1961, has been a lover for painting since childhood. Now he works as an publish planner and graphic designer. His artistic sense and working experience have paved the way for his photography.

From the year of 2011, he would travel abroad in every single year to shoot the distinctive cultural landscapes. His documentary works have won him a great many awards. ‘Prayers at the Wailing Wall’ was an award-winning series in the First Sente Cup International Photography Exhibition. Today we are pleased to feature an interview with He Xunyi who shares his ideas on documentary photography.

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Make It A Meaning Trip

Documentary photography follows a single topic or story in-depth over time, as opposed to landscape photography which is mainly about working with the environment and using it to your advantage. Documentary photography needs some preparation and study in the local culture before the photo shoot.

‘Prayers at the Wailing Wall’ is a project about Israeli culture. I searched information about the country before I went there and found out about the Wailing Wall.

The Wailing Wall is considered to be a sacred site by Jews, and thousands of people make pilgrimages there each year. This temple was destroyed by Romans in about 70 A.D., only a few years after its completion. The Wailing Wall is widely believed to be the only part still standing. After the temple was destroyed, many Jews began going to the wall to mourn the temple's destruction and to pray. The name Wailing Wall was ascribed to the site by non-Jews who saw the Jews mourning there.

Eventually I got there and to see it with my own eyes is better than any description: Heads bowed and prayer book in hand, people swayed back and forth, reciting prayers under their breath. I felt deeply moved by what I saw.

Better Edit Your Photos

The problem that many photographers face is that we are horrible editors of our own work. Editing in photography is one of the most important aspects to know. It refers both to the act of choosing your best images, and ‘post-processing’. A great documentary photograph needs to have soul and meaning. Besides, when you are editing down your photos, consider if it will work in a series of your own work.


Enjoy the Scenery along Your Life Journey

Life is the most spectacular journey, and we are on our way going forward not knowing the end of it. By deepening our understanding and emotional connection to life stories, documentary photography can capture and sustain public attention, and mobilize people around social and cultural issues.


(All photographs by He Xunyi.)


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