1. Could you please give us a little introduction and tell us about your first experience with photography? Who or what inspired you to begin photography?
Hello, I’m Bowen Li. Having worked in photography professionally for seven years, I am involved in all types of photography, especially street, fashion, and landscape photography. My beginning experience with photography was in my mother’s office when I was ten. She has a scanner there, and I always loved putting my hands, pot, toys, or even plants on the scanning screen to see what it would feed me back. I started my photography path to observe and explore worlds different from where I grew up. As a young international scholar almost a decade ago, I felt powerful and curious about capturing different cultures and people through visual storytelling. I wanted to get closer to them, talk to them, know their stories, and narrate from an outside viewpoint, which marked the beginning stage of my path.
2. From your point of view, what are the most exciting aspects of professional photography?
When I reflect on my past works over the years, I find it exceptionally inspiring to collaborate with artists from different disciplines, as they often expand my view on photography and spark new creations. When we brainstorm on the same topic, we examine from all points of view and generate unexpected flares. In this MOTHER photography series, I collaborated with the renowned New York-based couture designer Weijing Xiao. Her approach to futurism is full of delicate sensitivity and is incredibly stimulating to my practice. In MOTHER, Weijing utilizes mirror vinyl and various metal-fibered fabrics to enact mirroring. It’s because of her unique manipulation of materials that spawned me to rethink the concept of reflection. Reflections are not only a simple physical phenomenon. She showed me that reflections can be a transgressional channel, delivering an entire spectrum of compositions, shapes, and textures. I love to work in professional photography as it keeps nurturing me and brings more than I expected.
3. As the expert you are, what distinguishes your work from other photographers?
Experienced in many photography genres, I’m always open to traversing in new directions. As a sailor in the contemporary visual world, I am excited to set foot in unfamiliar landscapes. Technology is a core of visual storytelling, which continues to bring new meanings and direct new paths to transfer information and signifiers. In our MOTHER photography series, Weijing and I integrated technological aspects to speculate her world of cyborgs. I used Dall-E, an AI-generated creative rendering platform, as assistance with our photography. Tools like artificial intelligence add so much to the meaning of what we see and understand. MOTHER collection is now featured on CFDA digital runway platform and has received much media attention.
4. What are your goals for the next year with your photography business?
Next year, I would love to collaborate more with artists and designers in the fashion and animation industries. I will be focusing on texture study and signifiers in digital assets.
5. Can you walk us through your planning process for this photoshoot?
For this shoot, we went through many brainstorming sessions to grasp the speculative meaning of scenes and the understanding of the character. The mother in our series stands in a unique position of piercing sensibility disregarding social norms. Once the philosophical aspect was well articulated, the decision-making came crisp and easy. Weijing and I agreed to shoot in a natural landscape, seeing it as a hyper-object to human beings. We strived to erase the distinct line between the two opposite dynamics, nature and the machine. Post-editing was also another critical processing part. Having the larger vision in mind, we capture many materials to develop a mixed-media visual story afterward. We set different looks into emotions and textures and then use AI tools to make them more stunning.
6. Are there any other photographers you look up to? Who?
I admire Gregory Crewdson for his dramatic sense of horror and skilled lighting base. I have always learned from his style. Stephen Shore has influenced my understanding of photography’s traits and limitations. In addition, Hito Steyerl inspired me to treat photography and visual storytelling with a larger vision and bring me into the contemporary age of photography. I enjoy experimenting with boundary-breaking techniques and narratives.
7. What are your upcoming projects?
Weijing and I will keep working together for our upcoming fashion and fine art photography series involving AI. Apart from this, I am also working on a project revolving around bees. I’m fascinated by the shapes and forms of a bee crowd and the mysterious properties of their magnetic fields. The observation of bee society can shine a light on our current ways of human living, and bridge solutions to sustainability, global warming, and other global crises. I hope my work can also be impactful in protecting crucial chains in our planet’s ecosystem.
8. Where can we see more of your works and get connected with you?
I mainly showcase online using Instagram at @bowenl41. Currently, I am establishing a physical studio for expanded possibilities of collaboration and co-creating. There will be much to look forward to next year! Stay tuned.