Veteran photographer considers nature a 'good teacher'


Li Minguo and her two daughters lead a close-to-nature life in Yunnan province, which is revealed in Xiao's photos. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Camera lenses are portrait photographer Xiao Quan's "eyes".

His recently published photo album, Xiao Quan in Linda and Wanda's World-part of his work on photos of ordinary people-captures images from the lives of two girls, who live in the Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture in Southwest China's Yunnan province.

An ongoing exhibition on the same theme at the SKP Rendez-Vous gallery in Beijing displays dozens of photos of teenage sisters Linda Margraf and Wanda Margraf growing up in a "rainforest" built by their parents.

Seven years ago, Xiao visited Xishuangbanna to take photos. There he met the Margraf 's family-the Chinese mother, Li Minguo, and her two daughters.

Li's husband, Josef Margraf, was a German ecologist known for his efforts in reviving rainforests. He died of a heart attack in 2010.

When he was alive, Josef Margraf had rented land along the Lancang River (known as the Mekong outside of China) in Xishuangbanna to establish a biodiversity system. Along with Li, he had built a localstyle wooden house and planted trees in the area, which became their children's garden to play and learn.


A portrait of Wanda Margraf by Xiao Quan. [Photo provided to China Daily]


An exhibition of Xiao Quan's portrait photos is running at the SKP Rendez-Vous gallery in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The family's closeness to nature has been captured in many shots that Xiao took. For example, a mosquito landed on Wanda's hand, and the girl didn't whisk it away. Instead, she showed it to others as her "ring". Another time, Linda put a bunch of amaranth on her head, pretending it was her crown.

Xiao says the ongoing exhibition may also provide a chance for parents in cities to see that nature can be a good teacher to help understand the world rather than just through books.

Xiao shot to fame for his large-scale photo album, Our Generation, published in 1996. It features important figures from China's literary and fine-arts circles during the 1980s and '90s, including film directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, actor Jiang Wen, musician Tan Dun and writer Wang Anyi. The decadeslong shooting also captured the changes China has seen and earned Xiao the title of one of the country's best portrait photographers.

After that, Xiao shifted his focus to portraits of ordinary people.

"It is a good way to look at myself and the world," says the 61-year-old photographer.


A photograph by Xiao Quan. [Photo provided to China Daily]

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