Liu Ziqian’s simple, elegant, slightly surreal photographs are no ordinary self-portraits. They show more of her long limbs than of her face, and they often center on fruits, mirrors, or flowers. Yet she remains the subject, not only in a physical but in an emotional sense: her photographs began as a way to explore herself and cope with loneliness in the wake of a breakup.
Out of all the creative outlets that she could have pursued, Liu decided on photography because she found that it was the most therapeutic. Soul-searching came in the click of a shutter. Photography also served as a visual diary, where different moments of her appearance are recorded in pictures.
“What I love most about photography is that it can be a very quiet and profound companion for me,” she says. “It helps me not just to record different moments, but also to convey my inner voice. In the process of photography, I can find answers to many internal questions.”
Liu’s series of portraits may be serene, but they are far from dull. “I hope to give the audience a small world that’s calm but not flat,” she says about her works. Though each portrait has a demure and delicate quality, she still aims to subtly channel women’s inner strength. At times Liu finds herself plagued by restlessness and bouts of insecurity. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, though, she takes control of these feelings, composing photographs whose meticulous balance seems to convey an emotional state.
Forget about avant-garde theatrics and elaborate props—Liu uses simple, everyday objects. Round mirrors, fruits and flowers, even eggs serve as her co-stars in the portraits. They help shape the two main themes of her works. First, a balance between human beings and nature. Liu believes that humans are part of the natural world, as we live in the same space and breathe the same air. “I try to find a state of harmony between humans and nature in my works, one that is full of peace and emotion.”
The second theme centers on perspective. As we get overly familiar with the simple objects we use everyday, we no longer really see them in a unique light. Liu encourages the viewer to look at familiar things from different angles by changing the appearance of her props, such as using sliced lemons instead of the whole fruit. “This is not only about things,” she clarifies, pointing to a larger meaning. “It’s also about understanding others and our hearts.”
Minimalism is one of the most popular styles of photography on Instagram, perhaps because viewers seek peace in an otherwise chaotic world. Almost without meaning to, Liu has beautifully harnessed this aesthetic in her photos. “I do not have a very clear expectation of style. Everything is completely based on feelings and is always in the state of semi-fumbling, semi-learning. But I want to keep it minimalist. Minimalism is a reminder for me to stay pure inside and try not to be too distracted by the noise.”
She discovered her style through constant arrangement and experimentation while shooting and processing her photos. She aims to find the combination that makes her feel most comfortable and “quiet.” Avoiding repetition, or trying to maintain her style while still pushing boundaries, sometimes proves to be a challenge, but she presses on. “I want to think more and observe more to get more inspiration,” she says.
也许是因为观众想在这个混乱的世界里寻求安宁，让极简主义变成 Instagram 上最流行的摄影风格之一。刘子千在她的照片中完美地利用了这种美学：几乎全无刻意。“我对风格没有很明确的期望。一切都完全建立在感情的基础上，总是处于半摸索、半学习的状态。但我想保持它极简主义。极简主义提醒我要保持内心的澄澈，不要被噪音干扰。”
Speaking of inspiration, Liu finds her muse in her own growth. “Sometimes I look at my earlier pictures on Instagram. The pictures were obviously not mature, but I can see my growth process over time. So I wonder how far I’ll go in photography, and whether this curiosity about the unknown and the visible will inspire me to become a photographer.”
Liu’s success is also a testimonial to the power of social media. Despite taking photos for only two years, and having held only two public exhibitions, she reaches an international audience, with close to 100,000 followers.
“I had never really thought about this before, but I really appreciate the viewers liking my work. All I can do now is try to respond to all the people who have left comments and move on to shoot more works. I have no future plans at the moment—I’ll let things take their course.”
说到灵感，刘子千发现这来自于她自己的成长。“有时我在 Instagram 上看我以前的照片，那时拍得显然还不成熟，但日积月累，我可以看到我的成长过程。所以我想知道我在摄影方面能走多远，这种对未知和可见事物的好奇心是否会激励我成为一名摄影师。”
刘子千的成功也证明了社交媒体的力量。尽管她只拍了两年，只举办了两次公共展览，但她的全球粉丝人数却接近 10 万人。“我以前从来没有认真想过这个问题，但是我真的很感激观众喜欢我的作品。我现在能做的就是对所有留下评论的人做出回应，然后继续拍摄更多的作品。目前我还没有未来的计划——听其自然吧。”