Based in Shenzhen, Zhou Yusi (or better known by his Instagram handle @ucchow) is a Chinese photographer who finds himself captivated by the rapid development of modern cities. His photography, comprised of awe-inspiring aerial perspectives and geometric structures, captures the chaotic beauty of China and surrounding regions. “I like cities where the new and the old clash together,” Zhou shares. “Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Shenzhen are great examples of this.”
Zhou confesses that he didn’t plan on being a photographer in the beginning. Originally, he went to school to be a software developer, and at the time, he couldn’t even afford a proper DSLR. After graduating and buying his first real camera, he began shooting events and live performances, which, admittedly, weren’t especially creatively stimulating. However, as time went on, his interest in photography continued to grow.
The willingness to keep an open mind has been one of the most important factors in Zhou’s creative journey. Keeping an open mind has helped Zhou tremendously in not only his photography; it’s benefited him in nearly all aspects of life and has given him a refreshing perspective on his unconventional journey to success. “For regular people, they might look back and wish they could’ve seen the bigger picture beforehand or have a clear plan for the future. Not me though,” he tells us. “I revisited my university recently, and even though it’s been four or five years since I graduated and the world has changed so much, the school was the same as it ever was. It’s still out of touch with the real world, and in an environment like that, it’s easy to feel complacent and difficult to think outside of the box. If I had the chance [to give advice to my past self], I wouldn’t tell myself to change a thing.”
Following the purchase of his first drone, Zhou fell in love with taking photos from above. He says piloting a drone makes him feel like a “satellite, drifting idly above and watching the world beneath.” But with his drone, he does more than simply observe. Zhou likens the role of a drone photographer to that of a film director; much like a director, he has the control to frame specific scenes as he sees fit and present a narrative in line with his vision. While the drone is a great tool in his arsenal, what’s even more important than the tool is the creative output that can be achieved with it. It’s this understanding that motivates Zhou to continuously push himself and reach for new creative heights.
“For me, exploration means finding new perspectives, even in parts of the city I’m familiar with,” Zhou shares of his creative philosophies. “It’s not just about hitting rooftops and shooting the same things aimlessly. It’s about discovering the beauty of a street I might’ve pass by countless times before or seeing an apartment or office building in a new light. By presenting unique perspectives of these familiar places, I want people to go, ‘Wow! I can’t believe this is what my neighborhood looks like.'”
Zhou has now fully dedicated himself to both videography and photography but expresses a newfound preference in the former. “Photo editing is much faster. It can take only an hour or so. When it comes to video, it could take up to a day or much more. With the amount of time these two mediums take up, it’s hard to keep going if I wasn’t passionate. But the biggest difference between the two is that videos are much more elaborate. While you need to pay attention to many of the same things you have to watch out for in photography, you also need to consider the plot, storytelling cadence, transitions, sound design, and much more.”
Looking towards the future, Zhou expresses hopes of creating more travel-related video content. But regardless of medium, an earnest enthusiasm to share his adventures and showcase the beauty of our modern metropolises lives on in his work.