Find out how this Shang­hai woman is turn­ing heads and gain­ing recog­ni­tion for her unique self-por­traits taken in land­marks across the world

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - In Shang­hai


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

Ke Zhi­fang,

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.”

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