Pho­tog­ra­pher fo­cuses on Great Wall pas­sion

Un­trained vil­lager went from snap­ping tourists to win­ning na­tional prizes in just a few years

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China - By ZHANG YU in Chengde, He­bei zhangyu1@chi­

Few peo­ple are as fa­mil­iar with the Jin­shan­ling sec­tion of the Great Wall as Zhou Wan­ping.

For 33 years, not only has he manned a stall there sell­ing snacks and sou­venirs but he has also taken count­less pho­to­graphs of the scenic spot, some of which have earned him na­tional ac­claim.

Zhou’s vil­lage home in Chengde, He­bei prov­ince, is about 30 min­utes’ walk from the world-fa­mous Jin­shan­ling sec­tion, which dates back to the Ming Dy­nasty (13681644).

The 53-year-old started his stall in 1985 and be­gan snap­ping pic­tures as a way of mak­ing ex­tra money.

“Tourists were al­ways ask­ing me to take pho­tos of them af­ter they’d shopped at my stall,” he said, adding that he de­cided to save his money to buy a sec­ond­hand cam­era.

“I’d take a pic­ture of tourists with the Great Wall and mail it to them once it’d been de­vel­oped. I charged less than 1 yuan (14 cents) a pic­ture.”

Yet in­stead of fill­ing his pock­ets, the ac­tiv­ity stoked his in­ter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy. Soon, he was tak­ing pic­tures of the an­cient wall every day, from dif­fer­ent spots and at dif­fer­ent an­gles.

“My fam­ily and neigh­bors said I was just play­ing around to es­cape from work, that it wasn’t proper for a grown-up,” Zhou re­called.

But he did not give up, and some­times he would camp out be­side the wall for days just to cap­ture the scenery in the right light­ing and get that “per­fect shot”.

“I had no tech­ni­cal knowl­edge about pho­tog­ra­phy at the time. I just pressed the shut­ter re­lease when I thought it was the right mo­ment,” said Zhou,


who has only a mid­dle school ed­u­ca­tion.

Most of his pic­tures were or­di­nary, he said, but when­ever he found one that stood out, he would write down the set­tings he had used, such as the shut­ter speed. Us­ing this tech­nique, he honed his own style.

In 1988, one of his Great Wall pic­tures won first prize at the 17th Na­tional Pho­tog­ra­phy Art Ex­hi­bi­tion.

The honor won Zhou the sup­port he needed from his fam­ily to fol­low his pas­sion. Us­ing the prize money, he bought brand-new pho­tog­ra­phy equip­ment and fo­cused his lens on his favorite sub­ject — Jin­shan­ling.

“Na­ture gives the Great Wall dif­fer­ent scenery every day, and you never know what breath­tak­ing and beau­ti­ful mo­ment you will cap­ture,” he said.

Zhou’s pic­tures con­tin­ued to win prizes, in­clud­ing the China Pho­tog­ra­phy Award, the high­est honor among the coun­try’s pho­tog­ra­phy cir­cle. Pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers now visit his home to ask for tips on shoot­ing the Great Wall.

While sum­mer is the peak sea­son for tourists, fall is when most pho­tog­ra­phers head to Jin­shan­ling sec­tion, he said.

“I’m proud more pho­tog­ra­phers are com­ing and get­ting to know the beauty of the Jin­shan­ling Great Wall,” he added. “As a vil­lager, I’m keen to give them some ideas from the lo­cal per­spec­tive.”


The Jin­shan­ling sec­tion of the Great Wall in Chengde, He­bei prov­ince, is scarfed by morn­ing fog af­ter rain.

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