In Chinese, the term komorebi indicates in one word the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees, and it is the title Sheila Zhao chose for this series of images. A 32 year-old documentary photographer, Sheila moved from her native China to the USA when she was seven, and moved back to China fifteen years later.
Hello Sheila, thank you for this interview. When and how did you take an interest in photography?
I studied public relations and journalism at Indiana University. We studied photography for a few days during a visual journalism class. That was the start. After graduation, my interest in photography grew after I bought a DSLR to take photos during my holidays (at the time, I was working at a PR agency).
What have been the main themes of your photography so far? And what is Komorebi about in particular?
I like to work with the ideas of nostalgia and memory. Komorebi is a collection of little moments in life, which normally pass without much thought, but which I consider give life most sweetness. I travel a lot now as well, so focusing on making these images help anchor me down and appreciate all there is.
Please share with us a little bit about the creative process behind Komorebi.
Komorebi began by accident. I was inspired by some beautiful black and white works, which I saw one year at the Angkor Photo Festival. Having primarily worked in color before, I decided to give black and white a try and bought a small film camera. So I began taking photos, both during my travels and of things close to me when I’m at home. After a while, I noticed a similar narrative, and began to focus on photographing this series.
What camera(s) did you use to shoot Komorebi?
Two small Contax point and shoot film camera.
Choose a photograph from Komorebi and share with us something we can’t see in the picture.
I took the nighttime picture of the bugs flying around a street lamp in the spring of 2013, during a huge termite invasion in Shanghai (where I live). That picture turned out well, but having to live with the termites flying into everything and everywhere was not nearly as fun!
Choose your #threewordsforphotography.
Life. Light. Love.