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Insights of an Eco Artist

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Magazine - Narratives of Care

Navigating Intimacy Through the Lens with Lifu Hu

Joana Alarcão

In this intimate interview, we delve into the creative journey of Lifu Hu, whose work bridges the realms of art and care. From the formative influence of a high school photography teacher to the cathartic release of transforming painful memories into visual stories, the artist shares her profound insights and techniques. We explore how personal experiences and collective emotions intertwine to shape captivating narratives, revealing the deep-seated empathy and introspection that define her art.

27 May 2024

Lifu Hu, originally from Chengdu, China, has made New York her home and established herself as a dedicated photographer with a keen eye for capturing moments through her lens. Despite her academic background in Electronic Engineering from Chongqing University of Technology, Lifu followed her passion for photography and earned a Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography degree from the School of Visual Arts. Specializing in conceptual, still life, and documentary photography, Lifu's work is characterized by visually captivating stories that leave a lasting impression. With a unique blend of technical expertise and artistic vision, she skillfully crafts images that convey emotion, narrative, and aesthetic beauty. From exploring abstract concepts to documenting everyday life, Lifu's photography showcases her ability to capture the essence of her subjects with precision and creativity. Based in the bustling metropolis of New York, Lifu draws inspiration from the city's vibrant energy and diverse cultural landscape. Her photography reflects a deep appreciation for the nuances of urban life and a fascination with the intersection of humanity and the environment. Through her lens, she invites viewers to see the world from a new perspective, inviting them to engage with her visual storytelling and explore the depths of her artistic vision.

Can you start by giving us an overview of your practice and what led you to explore the intersection of art and care?


My photography primarily focuses on conceptual photography, still life photography, and documentary photography. My first photography teacher significantly influenced my creative style. She taught me how to use everyday objects to express my emotions and anthropomorphize them. As a result, in my subsequent work, I enjoy exploring my feelings towards the people and things around me and capturing these emotions through photography.

Can you tell me about your educational background and how it has influenced your artistic approach?

My four years studying electronic engineering during undergrad are a deeply painful memory for me. I didn't have a passion for that field, and each day, the complexities of the coursework slowly drained me. I had few friends at that time, and my parents didn't understand me. However, the pain of that low point granted me a lot of inspiration. Thankfully, things took a turn for the better later on—I had the opportunity to study in New York and officially began my journey into artistic creation. That period in college led me down many winding paths and didn't necessarily yield tangible results, but I'm still grateful for that experience. It bestowed upon me immense spiritual wealth.

In your artist statement, you mention that your work is characterized by visually captivating stories that leave a lasting impression. Could you elaborate on this line of thought?         

Before I delved into photography, my sole means of expression was through journaling. However, I later discovered that it wasn't a secure or private method. Consequently, I tore up most of my diaries. I felt that photography, to some extent, replaced those diaries; my creations became my memories, my thoughts, my emotions. Taking pictures became a way to materialize my diaries. For instance, if in my diary I wrote, "We, like two balloons ready to explode, hid in a thicket of tangled bushes," in my actual photography, I would use props and find ways to recreate the imagery from my mind.

Your work is deeply personal and intimate. How do you navigate the balance between your personal atmosphere and the collective?

I feel that none of my personal intimate emotions can exist without the collective. All my feelings and experiences are shaped within the collective. The environment in which I grew up and the people and things that have appeared in my life have all helped me form my unique emotions. Whether joyful or painful, they are all acquired from others.

What can you tell us about your submitted work, First Love?    

The most significant project for me is "First Love," which I completed last year. Both the preparation and the shooting process brought me a lot of reflection, allowing me to examine myself more deeply and comprehensively, particularly my behavior patterns in an intimate relationship. Additionally, this project was my first attempt at portrait photography. It helped me overcome my inner insecurities and fears, and it also made me appreciate the enthusiastic support and care from my friends and teachers.

How do you approach self-reflection in your work, and what do you hope viewers gain from experiencing your art? 

When I embark on a new project, I meticulously recall the experiences and emotions of that time. I attempt to revisit the relationship and my role in it from an observer's perspective, reflecting on the reasons for my emotions at that time and the motivations behind my behavioral patterns. As viewers engage with the photos I capture, I hope to evoke memories and reflections on past experiences within their inner selves.

What techniques do you use to capture the essence of your subjects, and how do you engage with them to convey a specific message or emotion?

When photographing models, I delve into detailed discussions with them about my thoughts and feelings regarding the project. I share with them my past experiences and emotions related to the project, allowing them to immerse themselves in the story and imagine themselves as the people involved in my relationship. Ultimately, I encourage them to see themselves as actors rather than just models and to embody the scenes in my mind, which I then capture through my lens.

How do you ensure your work captures the nuances of urban life and the relationship between humanity and the environment?   

I believe that to capture genuine moments, photographers need to hide themselves and their cameras, adopting a "peeping" perspective to capture the scene. When people are no longer aware of the camera lens, they are in a relaxed and natural state. This way, the images captured will be relatively more authentic.

What does the idea of 'care' mean to you in relation to your art and the world around you? 

For me, "care" means opening myself up to experiencing the world and approaching others with empathy. Additionally, it involves turning inward, facing my own feelings truthfully, observing and understanding myself more carefully, not neglecting my emotions, and documenting them.

What message or call to action would you like to leave our readers with?


My message will be to open yourself up and honestly face your inner self. Use tools or methods that suit you to express your emotions and convey your true thoughts. Only what is genuine can be truly moving.

Find out more about the artist here.


First Love by Lifu Hu. Image courtesy of Lifu Hu.

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