A window into his very own soul, Qiang Zheng really began to delve into photography back in 2011, not only as an interest but also as a way to release and explore his own emotions. After his mother’s passing, he spent a lot of time and energy in perfecting his images, both as a way to mourn and also to bring new light into his life.
He describes his photography as an extension of the world. “Everything is sentient; I try to express their time, space and internal information in my photography. I don’t have a fixed style, and my only goal is to express these few elements in my method.”
His passion recently led him to a stage performance defined by its timeless tradition, the Chinese Opera. With its sublime colours, melodies that live in infamy and rich cultural connotations, the Peking Opera is an integral part of Chinese history. Whilst much of the younger generations have little interest in this art form, there is still a strong community that aim to keep it alive, Zheng included.
Overlord Xiang Yu, on the eve of his breakthrough performance, wishing his concubine farewell – Nikon D700, f/3.2, 1/640 seconds, ISO1250, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 200mm
Bao Zheng is incorruptible and fair. He is a symbol of rectitude - Nikon D700, f/3.2, 1/640 seconds, ISO1250, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 200mm
Second Visit to the Empress, the mother of prince Li Yanfei manages state affairs - Nikon D800E, f/3.2, 1/1600 seconds, ISO800, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 190mm
‘The actors are usually there preparing three hours before the show, they arrive backstage and begin putting on their make-up. They are all very diligent and work hard. I really admire their persistence and try not to interrupt them when taking pictures.”
In each image you can gather a sense of the intricacies in make-up and especially in their wardrobe. Each piece meticulously crafted with decadent headpieces to match. These accessories are as integral as the stories themselves.
When photographing the opera, Zheng makes sure to travel light; two cameras, the D800E and the D700, plus his AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II, his choice of lens for its ability to bring rich colours and focus. He rarely brings a tripod as this restricts his movement. He prefers to be on his feet, weaving through the audience to get all angles.
This also happens to be his biggest challenge when shooting as the audience is constantly moving and he must photograph in a way that doesn’t distract the viewers or the performers. He is the fly on the wall, trying to remain invisible to those around him.
Actor does their make-up backstage - Nikon D800E, f/3.2, 1/40 seconds, ISO800, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 190mm
Yang Jiye bravely fights Liao invaders but is framed by treacherous ministers and forced to take his own life - Nikon D800E, f/3.2, 1/1600 seconds,ISO800, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 140mm
Qin Xianglian's husband refused to meet her and the children, causing her to feel dejected - Nikon D700, f/3.2, 1/8000 seconds, ISO1600, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 160mm
One of his favorite images is titles ‘Bao Zheng’, a character favored for being an impartial leader in the government. He has deep appreciation for this image because of its raw and determined nature; the actor is deep into his role despite performing under harsh studio lights that cause him to sweat, and eventually even his clothing becomes drenched but the show goes on.
Another memorable moment for him was when a 60-year-old actor had to fall straight on his back during the performance, “I was so shocked. One minute on stage can take ten years of practice. I respect him for having mastered such skills.”
As Zheng continues to explore his own craft, he is blessed to witness the perseverance of an ancient performance. With his passion for photography only growing, he retains that if he or anyone else wants to be a great photographer they must first find their own way, then they must persist, much like the performers he has been able to capture.
Qiang Zheng is a freelance photographer based in China. It was in 2011 that he began studying the art, shooting a variety of scenery, street snaps and portraits. Photography has become his point of observation of the world, evolving into a form of philosophy for him.