Still life: exploring the limits of imagination


Fashion. ©Zhang Jinyi

Zhang Jinyi is a China-based photographer who is passionate about still life photography. She creates arresting still life with a narrative twist. Though she began as a teacher, Zhang fell in love with photography after she had her first camera, and decided to make the leap to study photoshop as well. After years of learning and practice, she is now a somewhat expert in photography and photoshop. In 2017, she has been nominated in the “Sente·Antu Cup” International Photo Contest for her still life series.


It’s usually one of those everyday objects that catches her eyes such as mottled wall, rusty carabiner, scattered tools and scraps of food, and that she just naturally wants to capture. Then she tried to create a scene from scratch with the goal of telling a story in a single frame. In addition to envisioning, gathering and composing the objects for each shot, the creative process needs one more important thing: post processing.

Chromosomes ©Zhang Jinyi

Road lamps and the sun. ©Zhang Jinyi

Yet she was a complete beginner of photoshop. So she decided to learn it. She spent one or two hours every day on practicing photoshop, and insisted for three years. As a result, she has benefited a lot----After balancing the internal creative process with the techniques of the craft, she creates something of her unique style, maybe even immortalizes some ordinary objects.

Imprisoned sorrow. ©Zhang Jinyi

Principle of 80/20 ©Zhang Jinyi

Cruel frame. ©Zhang Jinyi

Beautiful harshness. ©Zhang Jinyi

“Shooting still life doesn’t mean the images have to be dull. You can add life and a sense of whimsy to your still lifes with a little creativity.

“For me it started with some item that inspired me, and then I’d start composing a theme. The process is much more involved, requiring thoughtfully selecting the items, placing and lighting them in a visually appealing way. Yet this is far from finished. Post-processing is equally important, as it realizes what’s in my head.

“I enjoy taking ordinary objects, and looking at them in an extraordinary way.”

Accountant gentleman. ©Zhang Jinyi

Mute. ©Zhang Jinyi

My house. ©Zhang Jinyi

Now she is about to retire this year, which means she can spend more time on her favorite hobby. As for future plans, she wants to travel all across China with her camera and capture all the beautiful landscapes of her country.

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