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Putting people today in touch with the past
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Hong Kong-based photographer Wing Shya is making waves in fashion, film and art in Asia and around the world. He has earned a reputation as a photo artist of great individuality with a sophisticated interpretation of the Asian spirit.

Now the old-fashioned shikumen (stone-gated) houses, along with the narrow and quiet alleyways in Shanghai's Xintiandi are a new inspiration for him.

"I want to create a new image for this legendary place," the 43-year-old artist tells Shanghai Daily.

Shya spent three days in Xintiandi shooting a series photos under the temporary title of "Jealousy" earlier this month.

It is an experimental presentation based on the characters of the Peking Opera classic, "Farewell, My Concubine." Some of the works are even set against the backdrop of Peking Opera performances. And several fashion brands based in Xintiandi also provided eye-catching costumes for the models.

"The series is full of emotion," Shya explains. "One of my aims is to connect people living in this modern world with their ancient predecessors."

Born in Hong Kong, Shya graduated from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Canada after his studies at the Lee Wai Technical Institute in Hong Kong. He then started his career as a photographer and graphic designer and his style is raw and edgy.

Using photographic techniques and an innovative artistic spirit combined with Eastern and Western cultural influences and from his exposure to design, music and art, Shya has also taken cinematography to another level.

He is well known for working with the highly acclaimed director Wong Kar-wai and was exclusive photographer and graphic designer for Wong's films "Happy Together," "In the Mood for Love," "2046" and "Eros."

"Unlike many other filmmakers, Wong is a thoughtful and creative person," Shya says. "He usually brings a bold visual style to his stories. My job is to give him more and better options."

The famous poster of "Happy Together," which features a gay couple's happy time on a roof, is one of Shya's favorite works.

"Actually it was not shot purposely," he recalls. "At first we wanted just to record the moment the couple are dancing, but the result seems more impressive."

Shya's photography has been seen in world-famous fashion and art magazines such as Vogue, iD, More or Less (Japan), Men's Non-No (Japan) and TIME Style and Design.

In 2004, he was named as one of the "200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide" in Luraer's Archive Special. And come October 2007, his pictures have been selected to be published in "The Creative Review Photography Annual 2007."

"I am keen on staring at people and studying the tiny changes of expression on their faces," Shya says with a smile. "When I shoot photos, I just want people to act themselves. My work is mainly about people. I hope to find out how they live and suffer."

He also advises young photographers not to have an overly technical focus on their pictures in case they lose their own personal style.

"Perhaps one day I will make my directorial debut," Shya says. "I won't add many lines to the movie. How to tell the story is the most important and challenging thing."

From October 12 to 26, "Jealousy" will be exhibited in Xintiandi's North Block.

(Shanghai Daily September 24, 2007)

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