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Photographer of the week: BJ Yang

Read this captivating story about BJ Yang, 1x photographer of the week, with one foot in each of two completely different worlds, Germany and China. Enjoy more extraordinary photos by BJ at the end of the interview. Big thanks to Yvette Depaepe for doing this interview. We will start featuring one fantastic 1x photographer every week. 

            Click photo to watch it in full size.

Tell us about yourself your hobbies and other jobs.

Several years ago I left my hometown Beijing and followed my German husband to Europe. I am now living between China and Germany. The change of environment liberated me from the tension born of the breakneck pace of life and work in China, and I was finally able to slow things down.

My unaccustomed leisure gave me an opportunity to take up my hobbies again. With camera and pen in hand, I began to do what I had always enjoyed – taking photos, writing and travelling.

I had travelled widely throughout the world, but I had never truly investigated my own homeland – China. My first target became China’s west, a land that I had always hankered after but never spared the time to visit. And thus my determination to get to know my own country took root.

After a few years, I humbly present what I saw and what I gained from my travels, my first documentary book “Somewhere Far Away” was published in Chinese, English and German three languages by Foreign Languages Press of Beijing, China in 2013. This book is dedicated to my husband, without his love, support and understanding, it would not be possible. And all the incomes of the book sales have been donated and used to help the poor kids in the west of China. The people and that piece of land have inspired me, all the benefits and the credits shall belong to them and return to them.

How has your history and life experiences affected your photography? Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?

Before I became a photographer, I was a dedicated businesswoman who rushed between big cities, surrounded by concrete forest and indulged by modern comforts. Once I started my photo travels, stepped into wild nature and built contacts to ordinary mountain people and farmers, I realized happiness and success have not much to do with material. I used to think I knew the world, yet this different world totally wake me up, like a cocoon tuning into a butterfly, I feel the freedom, the passion and the most important, the sincerity of the life. The models in my captures always enlighten me and touch me with their integrity, which is exactly what I want to express in my work.

I can’t give one specific instance that has influenced me, it is the general experience of my photo travelling that keep me solid, keep me a humble yet strong heart, I try my best to convey that message into my art work.

Describe your overall photographic vision.

To me, photography is art, is not about copying the world. Art comes from life and goes beyond life. 

As a photographer, my eyes are the filters to the real world. I capture it, transform it with my own mind, and present it in my own style.

What first attracted you to photography?

My father was a lover of literature and photography. When I was a little girl, my elder brother was my idol. I found inspiration in watching him develop photos in the darkroom in my childhood, and my obsession with photography grew until it became my lifelong pursuit.

Why are you so drawn to documentary photography?

In fact, I don’t limit myself to any genres of photography. I take everything that touches me, from landscape shots to street shots. When I face the great nature, the boundless skyline and the mountains make me realized the tiny worth of all my gains and losses. When I meet the heart-felt smiles of strangers on the road bring the simplest happiness and peace to my restless soul. Every shutter click reaches out to the bottom of my heart. I feel very much alive.

What is more important to you the story behind an image or technical perfection?

I believe there shall be a story first. Only attracted and moved by that story I start to focus on the subject, and then afterwards, of course, a technical perfection is the second step that is as important as the first one. A well-experienced photographer usually has a picture in mind before the shooting, or, during the shooting. I have a perfect to be picture in mind and try my best to achieve it accordingly.

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?

Many people ask me how I dealt with people that they always smiled to my camera, although sometimes I would rather they don’t, so to show a stronger character. I don’t really know how to put this into words. I guess it might be because of my open character and friendly approach to them.

Additionally, I do a lot of research before my photo journey. My researches include weather, geography, people, culture, language, history, traffic, food, custom, religion etc. I carry the most important notes in my photo bag all the way during my journey.  Reading these notes in the night before a day is another good method to prepare for my next shooting theme, beyond checking through what I have already shot. Being well prepared makes it easier to build contacts with local people, get help easily, and search for the topic items easier under the local people’s guide. Can avoid being offensive to any unknown ethnic custom as well.

Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly how has your appreciation of their work affected your own photography? Is there any particular photo that has inspired you a big deal?

Oh, there are many! At the moment, I am very fascinated by the works of Sebastiao Salgado. His “Genesis” is another masterpiece that is breathtaking whenever I read it. Studying the towering figure’s trip preparation, POV and post processing, learning from those endless details is absolutely inspiring!

Michael Kenna’s B/W landscapes create minimalist compositions resolved within a square format, leave space for viewers to sense, to imagine… I love that freedom feeling when I watch his works.

Of course, not to forget Henri Cartier-Bresson and many other great photographers at that time, their precious photographic reportage and daily life images encourage me to continue my work that I believe some decades later they would be part of the records during this fast reforming time in China.

There are so many outstanding photographers here in 1X as well. Their master works at various genres are extremely inspiring. The portraits from Norbert Becke are one of my favourites. His eye-catching portraits are more than just human faces. The striking details reveal the characters of a unique individual person and the depths of his emotions. I believe Norbert successfully fulfilled the goal of his works:„ They are insights into the souls of the people and moments of great dignity.“



Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?

As I said, after joined 1X, I have met so many outstanding photographers here. It is very inspiring and encouraging. Being surrounded by a group of outstanding artists, I learnt new method of post processing, different POV, most importantly, see my own work from a different perspective that will help me in my second album book which I plan to emphasis on a daily life documentary. I don’t know how long it will take. The first album took me seven years, I am not in a hurry for the second one. There is still so much for me to learn.

Describe your favourite photograph which you have taken yourself and why it is special and important to you?


This was taken in Ngari, Tibet, which lies at an average altitude of 4,500 meters on the borders of India, Nepal and the Kashmir region, have the lowest population density in the world.

That day I drove passed a village and saw a boy learning to ride a bike. It was not an ordinary scene at that remote area. I stopped and wanted to take a close look. Then I found out the bike had no brakes or inner tubes, it most probably was deserted by a cycler, however, became this boy’s precious toy. When I asked him whether he could ride it, he nodded proudly and jumped onto the bike.

This was an unforgettable scene for me. Against a background of snow-capped mountains in the distance, a boy was cycling an old bike, still his starry eyes shined bright. “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.”

This photo is not my best work, yet always warm my heart and remind me of that touching moment. 

Anything else?

It is a great honour that 1X gives me this opportunity to share my mind. I am very grateful of this artistic environment that a group of outstanding photographers can learn and improve together.

I also hope to see more Chinese photographers join in, as China has so much photography resources and we have so many marvellous photographers, it would be great to see your works here. I understand that language might be a barrier, but don’t stop there, get the help of Google translate, so do the photographers from other countries. Let your work speak for you. Art knows no boundary!




Dear BJ, congratulation to you and Yvette with the wonderful interview! Good luck to you! Keep going higher and higher!))
hi dear, thank you for your kind words and warm greetings to you as well!
Wonderful photos, history and technical excellence. The feeling transferred to the photographer and linking the subject with the viewer. Nice to see and read the story. Greetings.
Thank you Oscar for your kind message and support!
Well deserved BJ and thank you Yvette for the write up.
Dear A, long time not see you around, how r u? My warm greetings!
Excellent idea of featuring top photgraphers. It is a great way to get to know better the photographers and their works. Excellent interview, congrats to Yvette for it :-) And my best regards and congratulations to BJ for her amazing work. I had the chance in Bruges to have a look into her wonderful book and was delighted. Go on the great work!
It was my honor to be together with you a group of creative and warm hearted artists. Thank you dear Luis!
Many thanks for this admirable post Yvette and BJ . The work of BJ is remarkable , i'm a fan of it . Thanks for sharing all these very interesting informations and mainly these wonderful photography . Looking forward in seeing more & more of your work . Greetings .
Thank you very much dear Didier! Your sincere friendship is another big gain here for me, warm greetings!
You are the pride of all the chinese photographers!!!
Ha, I am blushing:)) Thank you Qin, glad to share with you!
It is a great pleasure to read this interview and get to know BJ better. A big thank to Yvette and BJ, it's a highlight in the life of this community, which adds a lot to the pleasure of images.
Dear Christian, the pleasures are all mine, indeed, it is such a warm community, people are so warm and generous with their friendship! Thank you and greetings!
I'm glad a lot that you are you, who begin the cycle of photographers of the week! Congratulations BJ! Greetings and good light! *
Oh dear Alfredo, one of my first friends get to know here in 1X, I am so glad that I have the honor to share these with you! A big hug!
Dear BJ. It is a big pleasure to get to know you better, a very nice and interesting reading, thanks for sharing. Keep on taking such a wonderful pictures for always :) Peter
Thank you so much for your warm support as always dear Peter, the pleasure is mine. Your B/W captures are also very inspiring and again, it is such a bliss to be together with you true artists!
A good interview and very interesting responses from BJ. I admire your photography since I met her here in 1 x. Congratulations.
Dear Kique, I appreciate all your kindness, from your endorsement to every encouraging note about my work, warm greetings!
It's fascinating to read the story behind your photographic itinerary and vision, dear BJ. It puts your strong photos even in a broader scope. And thanks Yvette for this interview
Oh dear Jef! I am so honored to be together with the real artist like you and so encouraged by your acceptance, believe me this is the best push for me to grow stronger and move further. Thank you for all your generosity and precious time!
I would like to say hello to BJ Yang and to express my thrill and devotion to every photo BJ publishes. Her works are extraordinary and I am glad she is presented here. All the best to her.
Warm greetings to you dear Dejan! I appreciate all your kind support and encouragement as always, it is very important to me!
Excellent interview, brilliant questions (thank you Yvette!) and fascinating insight into BJ's stunning work! Thank you very much for sharing this inspirational thoughts!
The pleasures are all mine, dear Adrian! I am so lucky to be surrounded by all the wonderful artists here.
Thanks to Yvette and BJ for this great presentation !
and thank you dear Hans, for your generous support as always!
My sincere appreciation to Yvette who is always so devoted to the community, one can only fulfill that with a generous and warm heart! Thanks a lot to dear Piet Ben Matej Vito Luis Antonio Steven for you kind words and support. The pleasures are all mine!
Great insight to a wonderful photographer, nice work.
Thanks to Yvette and 1X who give me this chance :) thank you Steven for your support!
Thank you Luis for your kindness support!
Thanks Yvette and BJ for this interesting interview.
Vito, the pleasure is all mine, and I like very much your new pearls, another great piece!
Thank you so much for your lovely collaboration, BJ !!! It was a pleasure to interview you and to know better the person beyond the images. I hope that many members will enjoy it as much as I did. Your work is more than worth to be seen and appreciated. Cheers, Yvette
sorry dear I just found out this function to reply individually. My sincere appreciation to you who is always so devoted to the community, one can only fulfill that with a generous and warm heart! A big hug!
Congratulations ..
thanks a lot Matej!
Thank you for this wonderful blog post Yvette and BJ. And congratulations to you BJ on the this feature! Your photography is absolutely stunning. Wonderful post, I look forward to many more like this. Love the cover photo for the home page, what an epic piece of artwork!
Thank you dear Ben for your encouraging, that I am so honored to have this chance to share with everyone!
once again my compliments BJ ... you go through the sky like a flying star. And to Yvette, great choice !
oh, my! Just found out that I can reply to each, I am really slow in this kind of thing... :)) thank you for your kind words as always dear Piet!