by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 25th of July 2022
May G' s work is very diversified, but her favourites are still life and landscapes because they bring out two different sides of her. On one hand, she really enjoys staying home, arranging inanimate objects, controlling lights, and creating a mood to evoke certain emotions. On the other hand, she loves to see the shapes of clouds, capture sunsets and sunrises, to walk in the mountains, and to listen to the sounds of waterfalls. She is continuously striving to improve her skills. Join me to discover more about this talented lady through this interview.
Dear May, first I would like to thank you so much for taking the time to answer this questionnaire! To begin, please introduce yourself shortly and tell us more about you, your hobbies or other projects you are involved in!
My turn to thank you for interviewing me! It’s a huge honour.
My name is May Guo. I grew up in Beijing, China and have lived in the United States for over 30 years. I worked as a legal researcher for more than 20 years in Washington, D.C. and have had several hobbies including cooking, baking, cake decorating, and travelling. I was also a shopaholic. Now I like to say I don’t have any hobbies any more : photography is my everything.
'Revisiting the Past'
When and how did you start your photographic journey?
When my kids were in middle school, we took a family vacation every year and travelled around the U.S., Europe, and Asia. I was amazed by the various sceneries and cultures and wished to record them, so I began to take photos. That initial interest in photography stayed with me for many years. In 2017, I finally made the decision to leave the fast-paced, deadline-oriented global law firm that I had worked at for more than 15 years to work in a more flexible environment so I could have time to pursue photography. In early 2018, I bought my Canon 5D Mark IV and started my photographic journey. I began to photograph everything, just like a child discovering the world, until 2020 when the coronavirus shut down the world.
For many of us photography is either a hobby or a way of life. How would you define your relationship with photography?
Photography started as one of my hobbies, but has become a way of life, especially since Covid-19. Outside of work, I spend all my time taking pictures, reading articles, listening to online lectures, and watching YouTube shows about photography. Photography brings me a lifetime of pleasure.
What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?
I would say 1x has played a major role in my photography journey over the past two years. The curated images inspired me and helped improve my artistic view. And I have learned so much from and been inspired by the photographers I follow.
You have your own style but your work is very diversified. I see still life photography but also landscape photography. Can you explain why this is?
Still life and landscape photography have major contrasts that give them their own distinct reasoning and execution. They bring out two different sides of me. On the one hand, I really enjoy staying home, arranging inanimate objects, controlling lights, and creating a mood to evoke certain emotions. On the other hand, I love to see the shapes of clouds, capture sunsets and sunrises, walk in the mountains, and listen to the sounds of waterfalls. However, both still life and landscape photography can evoke strong human emotions, something that deeply resonates with me. I am passionate about still life and landscape photography and appreciate their unique qualities and ability to allow me to express myself.
'The Journey to Laguna Torre'
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
I believe there should always be a story first. Technical perfection is also important but is the second step. Here are some of the stories behind my images.
“2020”: The whole world was shut down and people were trapped by Covid-19. The passport represents human beings and the cage represents home. I placed Kousa dogwoods, which look like the coronavirus, around the cage to show how menacing and omnipresent the virus was.
“Life”: Each flag symbolizes a life lost to Covid-19. It was very windy when I was shooting the flags, and I felt like “the lost lives” were yelling to save them.
“Salut d'Amour”: Lilies represent love. I combined lilies with the violin in honour of “Salut d’Amour," a moving piece celebrating love.
“The Circle of Life”: The flower bud turns into a green strawberry and gradually turns red as it ripens, illustrating the circle of life.
'The Circle of Life'
“We are Family”: Inspired by the ongoing dialogue around race in the U.S., I decided to use different colours and shapes of pumpkins to represent different types of people. I wanted to say that we are all human beings and as one family, we should love each other.
'We Are Family'
“A Mother’s Love”: The bent over stalk looks like a mother caring for her child, and the flowers’ differing colours are meant to represent their different ages and life stages.
'A Mother's Love'
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I become deeply invested in my subject matter and spend time preparing my photographs. When shooting still life, I spend time arranging and rearranging the subject. After shooting the photographs, I preview them on my computer and will redo the arrangement if I am not satisfied. If it is landscape, I try to arrange a visit or get to the location before shooting to understand the relationship between the subject and surrounding environment. I then wait for a better light, often at sunrise or sunset. If I miss something, I will revisit until I am happy with the result.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
Photography is a lifelong learning process. I would like to continue improving and always striving to take my best photographs.
Can you please tell us something more about your workflow from the idea to the final product?
I would like to talk about my workflow for tabletop photography. Many times, I have to adapt as I go and the final product is different from what I originally planned. Take “Dark Glow” for instance.
(1) Planning is always my first step. I bought some light-yellow and green tulips and planned to create Spring scenery.
(2) When it came time to place the tulips, the tulips in the vase couldn’t stand up. I decided to have the tulips interact with each other. I placed one tulip outside and used a small container to hold it.
(3) The vase and container were brown. After the first few shots, I realized that I wasn’t happy with the three colours.
(4) However, I loved the light and wanted to keep it.
(5) I decided to change my photograph into black and white, allowing me to keep the light while adjusting the colours. After lots of tinkering, I was finally satisfied with my photograph.
Where do you look to find inspiration and what inspires you the most?
I get inspired by the things I see and love.
Many are of the opinion that the gear is not very important when the passion for photography is strong. However, can you please share with us what gear you use (camera, lenses, lighting, tripod, etc.)?
Personally, I think gear is very important. A fast lens, stable tripod, and even a polarizing filter can help you take better photos and create the images you want to make. I am using Canon 5D Mark IV and Really Right Stuff Series Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod. For lenses, I most frequently use: Canon 11-24mm, Canon 16-35mm, Canon 24-70mm, Canon 100-400mm. Bi-Color LED Flood Light, and CAME-TV Focusable LED.
What would be your favourite photo? Please tell us the story behind it.
“Life” is my first still life image and also my favourite. I had just put a sunflower in the vase when all of a sudden, a petal dropped on the table. It was beautiful, but also sad, reminding me of the ups-and-downs of life.
Who are your favourite photographers or mentors whose works have influenced you and your photography?
Many excellent still life photographers on 1x have inspired me over the years, including Cicek Kiral, Victoria Ivanova, Margareth Perfoncio, Tatyana Skorokhod, Ustina Green, Diana Popescu, Iwona Nabzdyk, Jacky Parker, Monique van Velzen, and Delphine Devos. Lydia Jacobs is the one who influenced me the most. She is a very talented photographer with lots of beautiful and creative works that have touched my heart. I was fortunate to register for her workshop late 2020 and learned still life from her. I like the way she uses light, colours and mood to share her passion.
I also follow several landscape photographers, including Marc Adamus, Hua Zhu, Huibo Hou, and Kah Kit Yoong. Yiming Hu is one of the most well-known landscape photographers and late 2021, I started joining his tours. I admire his work and artistic vision, and am touched by his dedication.
'Fitz Roy and Her Reflection'
'Cuernos del Paine'
'Autumn in Narrows'
'Racing Across the Desert'
Finally, I like to read John Fan’s blogs about his personal insights, including current photography trends. His views are helpful.
Now, since we have almost reached the end of this interview, I would kindly ask you to share with us your plans or photographic projects you would like to be involved in.
My goal is to become better than I was yesterday. At the moment, I am concentrating on still life and landscapes but in the future, I would like to learn black and white photography and post-processing.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
1x is not only an exclusive curated art gallery with so much talent, but also an incredible development platform that encourages new photographers like myself to continue improving. 1x is my home base for my photography and I am very happy and proud to be a part of the 1x family.
Lydia Jacobs CREW
Congratulations dear May for your hard work and great achievement. Great article and nice collection.
Thank you, my dear teacher! You've set a good example!
Yanny Liu PRO
Capture the pictures with your eyes and mind. What a beautiful Collection! Congratulations!
Thank you, my df! Thank you for encouraging!
Dennis Zhang PRO
Very nice gallery. Congrats!
Thank you, Dennis. I've been looking for a chance meeting you!
Mei Zhang PRO
Utterly beautiful photos! Well deserved feature! Congrats, May!
Bill X. Liu PRO
2 thumbs up ! You made tremendous progress just in a few years, very inspiring ! My goal is to have 1x interview me sometime in next 20 - 30 years.
Thank you, Bill. You will get one soon! :)
Excellent gallery..!! congratulations..!!!
Thank you, Polys!
Wanghan Li PRO
Having read the interview, I am inspired. Thanks a lot!
Thank you, Wanghan! Appreciate your support!
Stupenda galleria, fotografie veramente stupende, complimenti May. Grazie Yvette per le presentazioni dei fotografi, un modo per conoscerli più da vicino
Fantastic and varied collection, a nice inspiration May!! Thank you, Ivette for your presentations and admirable work!
Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Joana. All honour goes to May today ;-)
Appreciate your comment. Thank you, Joana!
Iris Wiener PRO
Absolutely brilliant work May! Love your landscapes - amazing!
Appreciate your comment. Thank you, Iris!
Jianping Yang PRO
Amazing collection, congratulations May!
Thank you, Jianping!
Wonderful interview and beautiful work! Congratulations!!!
Thank you, my dear!
Thank you for your inspiration, what a beautiful work! Congratulations!
Thank you for your comment, Gabrielle!
Q Liu PRO
Congrats, May. Awesome interview. You're an inspiration.
Thank you for your comment, Q!
Louie Luo PRO
Very impressive collection of still life and landscape! Congrats, May!
Thank you for your comment, Louie!
Leah Xu PRO
Nice interview, beautiful work, congratulations!
Thank you for your nice comment, my df!
John Fan CREW
Congrats! Well desired!
Thank you for encouraging!
John Fan CREW
Thank you, John!
Ruiqing P. PRO
Beautiful still life and landscape collection, just like the beautiful two sides of you, congrats!
Beautifully curated collection - and a well deserved feature May.
Thank you for your comment, Michael!
Yanyan Gong PRO
What a beautiful combination of nature and still life! Congratulations May! Thank you Yvette!
Thank you for your comments, dear Yanyan!
Thanks for your appreciation, my friend !
Well written answers and beautiful work, May. Congratulations on the feature of Photographer of the week. Cheers, Yvette
Dear Yvette, thank you so much for the interview. It's a big honor! I am so proud to be part of the 1x family.