SELFIES WITH A DIFFERENCE
Find out how this Shanghai woman is turning heads and gaining recognition for her unique self-portraits taken in landmarks across the world
The main thing most people are concerned about after they have taken a selfie is how their faces look. For Ke Zhifang, however, she’s more interested in her pose.
The 42-year-old Shanghai native has been making waves with her series of selfies that have been painstakingly executed to illustrate her jumping in a variety of locations around the world. Earlier this year, three of her photos were even showcased at the Shanghai Photography Conference.
“This little fun thing that I have decided to try out has really paid off, and that’s just bliss for me,” she said.
An employee of Japanese camera maker Olympus, Ke interacts with professional photographers often and this inherently helped her gain a good eye for photography, as well as heightened her standards for the photos she takes. Early last year, she chanced upon several creative pictures in which a Japanese woman was photographed jumping and striking different poses in the streets of Tokyo.
“I was fascinated. The way her lithesome figure was captured really showed an overwhelming yearning for freedom,” Ke said.
That inspired Ke to come up with her own series of images, and she first attempted to do so with a camera and a tripod. She initially thought that all she had to do was perform a jump just before the camera’s shutters closed, but she soon realized that she could not get a satisfactory image even after a hundred leaps.
“Everything, from how high I jump to how I position my legs to how I flip my hair, needs to be taken into consideration. I usually don’t wear dark colored pants as they tend to make the lower part of my body invisible in the picture. I also like going barefoot as it better evokes this feeling of lightness,” said Ke, who is a mother to a 15-year-old boy.
The hardest part of the project, however, was overcoming the awkward feeling of knowing that someone was watching her perform her stunts.
“I was once doing a shoot in an old residential community and I heard constant laughter coming from a house. I felt like I was being mocked but I later discovered that the laughter came from people who were playing mahjong,” Ke said.
Some of the locations that Ke frequently practice at include secluded spots around the city such as garages, neighborhoods that are awaiting demolition and small parks. And no matter how hard it is to capture the perfect shot, Ke always declines for her portraits to be taken by others, saying that she needs her photos to
a 42-year-old Shanghai native who creates her jumping selfies.
be shot in the way she wants.
“Every person perceives the light and color presented in the frame in a different way,” she explained.
When Ke was confident of her skills, she started to take her unique selfie journey to new places such as coffee shops, historical alleys, museums and even overseas landmarks. She recalled the time when a Caucasian man watched her for minutes as she tried to take a photo of herself jumping at Hong Kong International Airport.
When she finally showed her images to the man, he replied: “I’d love to marry you if I were single. You are so cute and creative.”
One of her favorite pictures was taken in India and it shows her tugging at her skirt in midair as a bird flew past in the background. During her visit to the legendary Taj Mahal, Ke admitted that she was so obsessed with nailing the perfect jump that she did not even tour the historic site.
“The most beautiful photos are often those that have not been planned,” she said, adding that she is constantly looking for ways to improve the image whenever she reviews her images.
Ke even went to the extent of picking up dancing in order to gain more confidence and a slimmer body shape. Her images soon became very popular among her friends, who started to do the same with their own selfies.
A self-confessed travel and photography enthusiast, Ke said that she does not take selfies simply to show people “I’ve been there.” Rather, she wants to be the leading character in her own shot.
“I want the scenery and landmarks to be my background while I stand out in the pictures in a unique way,” she said. “One day when I have more satisfactory shots, I’ll hold an exhibition of my images.”