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Despird Zhang: 'Real Life Art' and triggering emotions

by Yvette Depaepe 
Published the 21st of August 2020

Despird Zhang  has a wonderful and diversified portfolio.  Des is an excellent photographer who loves to photograph children, but in many cases, strong lights and shadows are no symbols of dreamy childhood but a metaphor that is suppressed by unknown external powers, which succumbs to real-life obligations. 
He also is committed to 1x by providing translations of some articles into Chinese for a large photo community 'Images of UTC-8'  making 1x well-known. 

Des also is a humble warm hearted man.  He quotes: ' I would never say that I am an “Artist” of every kind. All I wish is that I could freely inject my life experiences and desires into my creations.”
Recently, he became a member of the 1x Editorial team, and we are proud to present him to the readers through this interview.



Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, dear Des.
I was born in North-Eastern China. I have an engineering degree in Avionics (electronics in aviation). My first job was with a military aircraft project. Several years later I quit and transformed myself into a professional software engineer until now.

My wife and I relocated to Perth, Australia in 2007, and now I am a proud father of three children, two boys: Eric and Victor and a girl Delphie.


 ERIC: 'Maze Runner'



VICTOR: 'Cave Painting'



DELPHIE: 'Chinese Girl'


I am a full-time software developer now. Besides my work and photography, I love classical music and literature, Chinese calligraphy, etc.

How has your history and life experiences affected your photography? 
I have been enthusiastic in art since I was very young. I learned drawing and painting from a locally famous artist. Unfortunately for some reason I had to give up my dream.
I love western paintings and classical music, especially the genre of impressionism. Ravel and Monet are my two favourite French artists.

Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
The time spent with children has always been a great advantage for gathering materials for my photos. To be honest, I would never say that I am an “Artist” of every kind that I ever want to be. All I wish is that I could freely inject my life experiences and desires into my creations.


'Battle on Wheels'



'Science Class'



'The Eagle Mind'

What first attracted you to photography?
I received my first DSLR camera Nikon D5100 as a birthday gift in 2013. Initially, I took lots of landscape photos in the suburbs of Perth, around the rivers, beaches and harbours...


'By The River'







Later my daughter Delphie was born, and I point my cameras on her more and more.





'Secret Corner'

Now I appreciate the fact that photography has fulfilled my art dream in a way.

Describe your overall photographic vision.
Improving myself, sharing knowledge and dedicated the best to the community.
Over the years, I have been occupied with my career or parenting. On the other hand, photographing my own children has become a more and more difficult task as the children get bigger and bigger, they wouldn’t stay as natural as they used to be in front of the camera.
I think I need something else that can supplement individual photography activities.

In 2016 my friend Sarah Shen and I co-founded a local photography club 东八区影像 in Perth. Over the years of transition it has become a large online photography community well-known on multiple platforms including Wechat, Tuchong, etc. 

东八区影像 means Images of UTC-8, based on the fact that both China and Perth are located in same time zone UTC-8. We are committed to non-profit international photography cooperation and communication, and to discover aspiring young artists and their works across the globe.

We started introducing articles from 1x magazine intermittently since 2017, making 1X well-known across the whole community.

Translation into Chinese from the
1x article
 'Does Photography really means anything to anyone in the digital age?'

Translation into Chinese from the
1x article  'Lazy shutter-speed effects'

Translation into Chinese from the 
1x article  'Bring your photographic skills indoors'

Translation into Chinese from the
1x article   'Family as a Universal Child'

By following the official account id: dxdownflyer in Wechat (a mobile app), you can read all history articles.

We also run contests bi-monthly and our judges include following 1X members (all are my good friends and teachers) :

Bingo Z, Dongyun Bai, Liuxing, Windancer, Ke Liu, Sarah Shen.


You have your very own style but your work is very diversified.  Can you explain why this is?
My initial interest was landscapes before transitioning to people because I am in awe of the power of nature. On the other hand, I was also fascinated by the shapes and colours of modern cities and that explains the few architecture shots in my portfolio. Furthermore, as a regular commuter I would take a few street shots with my mobile phone on a whim.


'Busselton Sunset'









'The Me-trix'



'Battle of Metals'

But in general, my focus is on children, mostly my own children. Both in colours and monochrome.

What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection? What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
When it comes to children photography, some key words pop up in your head: cheerful, bright, innocent, lovely, happy, playful, dreamy, fairy, beautiful... that are commonly considered suitable for portraying children.





'A Girl is No One'

In my early creations, I was trying to embrace those factors. Then someday I realized this might not work out with me. I am a self-taught amateur photographer without a solid artistic background. And I have a pretty bad sense of colours. In my eyes the same colour seems to alter themselves from time to time, sometimes so strong and other times completely washed.

I paused for a while and was pondering the aesthetic implications of these words, the conclusion is ironic and bitter, I have to be careful with those because once they do not reflect anything that I wanted to express at the particular moment, the result is not very pleasant.

I cannot create a work that is deemed to be satisfying every time. I fail all the time, even today.
As a result of such kind of self-destruction and reconstruction, something new began to surface in my photographic language. I am aware that the child in the scene is only a reflection of myself, the fear and stress, and sometimes nostalgia. What hides underneath the hard shell is loneliness and fear which recurred in my old-time nightmares and insomnias during the endless nights. In many cases, strong lights and shadows are no symbols of dreamy childhood but a metaphor that is suppressed by unknown external powers, which succumbs to real-life obligations.






In the lively Christmas street pageant, among the hustle and bustle and the festivities of lights, I captured a pair of eyes sparkling with a little timid.



I prefer B&W in terms of post-editing and a composition as simple as possible. Sometimes I am too obsessed with lights and shadows, and strong vignettes that have received much criticism. But for me that makes sense because it helps explain the nature of lights: they come from dark and serve for themselves. Eventually they will be devoured by the darkness again, but they will leave indelible marks.


'Army Inspection'







I simply hope to provide a distinct perspective through my creations to help us, who are still children in one way or another, walk through this both wonderful and overwhelming world.

Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
For my own children, I never make any preparations, because you won’t be pressured by time or demands, and you have a very clear target of what you want to achieve. Location-wise, 99% of the photos were taken within a radius of two kilometres from my home.

I do believe good photos should not be restricted to locality, as photography is dominated by the perspective of the photographer rather than the contents of objective surroundings. The result depends on the shape of your lens frame and inevitably the image of your mind.

What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
DSLRs: Nikon D7100, D750 with 85mm f/1.4G, 24-70 f/2.8, Sony A7III 85 f/1.4GM
Mobile phones: Nokia Lumia1020, Huawei Mate8

What software do you use to process your images?
Photoshop, 3Dlut Creator

Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I shoot in raw with AdobeRGB straight out of camera, then use Camera Raw to make colour decisions (sometimes directly into black and white), loaded into Photoshop for final retouching. My experience told me a decision must be made as early as possible, trying to make the processing steps short and determined. Swinging rarely creates a decent result. Try smart filters, they are incredibly helpful in regard to maintaining the quality of the image and easy to take you back to previous stages.

One thing I personally like to do is create multiple PSDs and label (name or version) them in a helpful way. Single PSD is expensive to open and action, while multiple PSDs labelled with steps don’t have this drawback and give you other benefits.

What is your most important advice to a beginner in Photography and how do you get started?
I still consider myself a beginner over the years but one thing I am quite certain is that it is aesthetic perspective rather than knowledge that forms a pillar of good artwork. Without enough artistic background or accumulation, the more skills you have learned the easier you end up creating a bad result. I know plenty of great artists who are just using simple techniques to obtain perfect results. Art is not necessarily about precision and breath-taking detail in many circumstances.

As I observe today there are lots of photographers with science or engineering backgrounds just like myself. This is not unusual because they tend to get obsessed with the gears or fancy post-editing skills. Most of their creations are eye-catching however they are too reproducible to become the target of mass imitations. My suggestion is creating your own photographic signature or language instead of pleasing people or doing something simply because you can. It might be fun at first then it gets boring quickly, and it eventually makes you lost in tastes.

Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography? 

The giants from last century: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Herbert List, Fan Ho...

In the digital age, there is no doubt the best teachers are 1X artists! Svetlana Melik-Nubarova, Yvette Depaepe, Larry Deng, Jian Wang, Sol Marrades, Teruhiko Tsuchida, Nobuhiro Ishida, Hengki Lee, Sebastian Kisworo ...and so many more.

Knowledge-wise, I learned a great deal from Svetlana Melik-Nubarova, my great mentor and dear friend!  Not only her amazing retouching techniques but also her sophisticated artistic visions.

Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
Every time I watch this photo it subtly triggers an inexplicable emotion inside of me.


George Hoyningen Huene @Herbert List

It is hard to convince people why you love one particular photo because the same reasons can also be applied to any other individual photo. The difference between liking and loving is that love is a personal emotion born without being accompanied by reasons.

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?

I sort of found my own way of expression and I want to persist and develop them into another level.
On the other hand I always wish to pick up the pen again and start drawing, not just about the skill, I believe it enables me to have an equal conversation with the artists I have been fond of and unearth the true nature of human emotions.

Regarding the community, in addition to continuing existing online activities, I started planning some offline events last year, but they fail due to the global pandemic. For the moment we’ll just have to wait for things to get back to what they were, meanwhile, I am searching for opportunities to co-host some international dialogues or events with other organisations.

Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?


'The Capture'

This is a treasure to me, because all members of my family (excluding myself) are in the picture.

Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
Since being a member of 1X in 2014, I have browsed a tremendous number of photographs and read numerous articles. I am more of a conventional person, so I prefer using computers over mobile phones. The layout of the 1x website is very unique and attractive to true artists. Its imitation of a real-life art gallery makes it an excellent art school. For how long we have almost forgotten that a good photo needs a space to breathe? That is the kind of message it tries to deliver here, and the message is well received and acclaimed.

As I mentioned, I am a no artist, not even a professional photographer. As a result, bottlenecks occur constantly. Browsing 1x gallery is a perfect alternative to browsing real drawings in art galleries, and even more. It is a bigger repertoire and it is more contemporary and modern.

I have maintained a good relationship with many 1x photographers for many years, and today it is a great honour that my friends and mentors – Yvette  and Ralf  are offering me the opportunity to be part of the editorial team. This is a great honour and encouragement for me. Apart from that I can no doubt look forward to a closer connection between 8fotos and 1x, and we’ll certainly continue introducing 1X artworks and articles to Chinese readers.

Thank you again!
Despird Zhang
Perth, Australia


恭喜 说的非常好
Congratulation Des!
Thanks brother!
V587 Despird ++
Thank you Larry, speaking of diversified, you deserve a crown.
Thanks so much dear Despird for sharing your thoughts, insights, and vision of your way in the photographic world. It is very inspiring and the strongest feeling I get when watching your wonderful works is the authenticity and directness of the images. They all tell a touching moment in time. Excellent interview and beautiful gallery. My compliments to you and Yvette for sharing with us all.
Thanks, dear Arnon!
Thank you Arnon!
Very glad to know you beter Des. Thanks for the insight in your photographic vision and the overview of your fine portfolio.
Thank you Luc dear friend!
Congratulations and thanks for your fine collaboration, Des! And too ... heartfelt welcome in the 1x Editors Team. Cheers, Yvette
Thank you very much dear Yvette! I do believe "Real Life" is an art, and thanks to your interpretation it becomes so vivid and tangible to everyone. My best regards, Des.