ART / SCIENCE / BUSINESS
Except for being a freelance photographer, model, and art director, Jialu can be more aptly described as a collector of life's mundane moments that shimmer with a certain radiance; or a poet who uses light and shadow as ink to inscribe the vast wilderness of the inner self. When you peruse her works, you will be astounded by her unique perspective on the world and her dramatic expressions that endow everyday objects with a foreign outlook.
Through her lens, figures exude a fullness of life in their interaction with nature, exhibiting a free and independent spirit in their demeanor and posture. This fluidity is complemented by her highly recognizable color palette and juxtaposition of surreal spaces, narrating tales of transcending time and space.
Born and raised in Beijing, Jialu built a cultural identity in China; then, she came to New York for graduate school at the age of 23. With an academic background in pharmaceutical sciences in Peking University and public health in Columbia University, her researches have been published in top-tier health science journals.
Also as a student of art history in Peking University, she employs the tools of art criticism to ardently explore the multifaceted nature of existence. As an incoming management consultant at McKinsey, she employs a business-oriented mindset to create impact. These seemingly disparate paths all stem from a unified philosophy - that of transcending the limitations of individual life through the act of creation.
Jialu's art interests extend far beyond the realm of photography, as she actively engages in various artistic and intellectual pursuits that complement and enhance her creative vision. Her documentary filmmaking captures the intricate details of diverse cultural experiences, from the military training at Peking University to the cultural impact of poverty alleviation in Guizhou, China, to the majestic beauty of the Antarctic peninsula. Jialu's enthusiasm for digital art is exemplified by her avid pursuit of NFT art making and marketing, a natural extension of her prior experience in venture capital.
As a dancer since childhood, Jialu has developed a keen awareness of body language, which is reflected in her photography through nuanced gestures and postures. Her practice of daily journal writing since 2015 is a testament to her commitment to thoughtful reflection, a foundational practice that informs her curation and storytelling.
For more information or connection, check Jialu Cheng at:
Moevir Magazine March Issue 2023 featured edition
[To embrace every sunrise as a bless]
Uyuni: To embrace every sunrise as a bless
Creative Director/Female Model/Publication/Retoucher/Photographer Jialu Cheng @c.jl.c.jl.c.jl
Photographer Yifan Chen @yifancchen
Photographer Chunhan Chen @sue.c.c
What makes you choose this profession?
My “aha moment” to start photography can be attributed to the dream-like journey on the edge of the world 8 years ago, though I have not yet done it as a full-time profession.
At the tender age of 16, in 2015, I stood at the edge of the world, at the southernmost point, gazing upon the Heart-Shaped Island in Tasmania, Australia. As I peered down, two oceans merged, forming a narrow strip of land, with the far-off Antarctic on the other side of the sea, beyond my line of sight.
The sight of the world's end awakened me to the realization that there is boundless space and time beyond the "here and now," prompting me to engage in a conversation with the people and objects at the edge of the world by breaking free from the constraints of everyday life and common sense.
Meanwhile, as a female exchange student at a boys' high school in Hobart, I encountered diverse individuals and developed a sense of reverence and devotion to nature, which sparked the desire for self-expression.
Photography became the medium through which I expressed this desire, beginning with capturing images on an iPad and later acquiring a single-lens reflex camera at the age of 18.
In your daily routine, what resources do you like to learn new things about art, fashion?
My philosophy of learning encompasses three fundamental stages: input, processing, and output.
Input refers to the inspiration that I derive from various sources, including visual art works, art and psychology theories, cultural heritages, travel, and interactions with all encounters in life.
Processing involves synthesizing and organizing the dots of inspirations into the river of mind. This process relies on logical reasoning that draws from the first principles which I learnt from scientific training, as well as on intuitive insights that are cultivated through artistic endeavors.
Output is the manifestation of my creative expressions, and I believe that a solid foundation of techniques is critical in developing a distinctive visual language to enable such expression. To enhance my toolkits in art, I attend workshops in various art forms, such as painting, dancing, calligraphy, installation art, and improv theater, which are conducted by artists I admire. Specifically for fashion photography, during my gap year between college and graduate school, I polished my skills in shooting, retouching, and styling from renowned fashion photographers, such as Chen Man and Heather Wong.
Is art, fashion important in your life? Why?
Art is important to my life as one of my ways of mediation between the subject and the world, of accessing and expressing the non-symbolizable aspects of reality that are excluded from conscious thought and discourse.
Borrowing Lacanian psychoanalytic theory which I personally find handy in explaining my preference for appreciating and making art: Art is a means of expressing the unconscious desires, anxieties, and contradictions that are repressed in the Symbolic order of language and culture. Art operates as a kind of "surplus enjoyment" that exceeds the demands of the Symbolic, allowing for a temporary release of repressed psychic energy. This surplus enjoyment is produced through the tension between the symbolic order and the real that is embodied in the work of art.
Fashion is also important to me, as it is not simply a matter of personal taste or style, but is deeply embedded in the symbolic order and my relationship to desire and the gaze.
I understand symbolic order as the realm of language, culture, and social norms that shapes our understanding of ourselves and the world. Fashion operates within this realm, as it relies on the use of signifiers (such as clothing, accessories, and styles) to create a sense of identity and to communicate with others. Also, fashion can be seen as a way of mediating the subject's relationship to the gaze of the Other, i.e., to be a handy media that one can attempt to control the gaze and create a specific image or persona that one believes will be pleasing or impressive to the Other.
Where does your inspiration come from?
“The Tao of photography is not in photography itself.” I gain inspiration from all aspects of encounters in life, and here is a recent example of the inspirations from traveling to Antarctica during the 2022 Christmas.
As I stand amidst the vast emptiness of the Antarctic, a profound contemplation of the human and penguin likeness emerges within me, evoking a realization of the inextricable interconnectedness between all beings. In this moment of introspection, I am filled with both regret for our collective ignorance and gratitude for the boundless expanse that lays before us, enabling a childlike perspective free of the calculating mind, and empowering the pursuit of creativity with unbridled creative prowess. As we embrace this unknown land with open arms, we tap into the wellspring of trust and harness the courageous spirit of surrender, a path that leads us closer to the ultimate truth. Then the iceberg in the midnight Antarctica sunset became my temple for meditation, as a process of uniting physical and spiritual journey.
After that, I found my eyes expression changed when looking into the lens, just as shown in the posted pictures here in Moevir, which was taken in the thin air at Uyuni’s 4000m altitude right after the Antarctica trip. I have yet to find proper verbal language to describe the exact lessons learnt, but this set of photos serves as a precious record of my change.
What is the most important thing for creating new work?
The common paradigm of innovation in art studios, science institutes, and venture capitals can be elucidated through the framework of the two main tactics of innovation: (1) creating something new from scratch and (2) linking existing dots in an unexpected way.
Creating something new from scratch is a manifestation of risk-taking and challenging the status quo, usually accompanied by the disagreement from the vast majority: In art, this can be demonstrated by experimenting with new techniques, materials, or subject matter to create something unprecedented; in science, it involves pushing the limits of the currently known by developing new theories, hypotheses, or experimental designs; in business, it involves creating new products, services, or business models that disrupt existing industries or create entirely new markets.
On the other hand, linking existing dots in an unexpected way encompasses the discovery of new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts. This form of innovation entails combining existing knowledge, tools, or technologies in novel ways to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts: In art, this may entail creating new art forms by merging elements from different cultures or traditions; in science, it may involve applying knowledge from one field to another, such as using AI to accelerate drug discovery; in business, it may require linking existing technologies with unsolved demands in innovative ways.
In both cases, the common paradigm of innovation in art, science, and business is fuelled by a willingness to take risks, experiment, and challenge the status quo. It involves a creative approach to problem-solving, an openness to new ideas and perspectives, and a willingness to learn from failure.
Will you still create new works when you are old?
As a philosophical stance, I aspire to transcend the conventional dichotomy of old versus new, and instead, seek to comprehend their fundamental unity.
For me, photography serves as a powerful language of self-record and expression, a medium that allows me to transcend the boundaries of time and space, and leave behind a tangible record of my existence. This function of photography is rooted in a fundamental human drive to confront and overcome the anxiety of death, which has motivated the creation of art, literature, and philosophy for centuries.
As such, I am committed to continuing my creative work until the end of my life, driven not by the desire for novelty or the pursuit of fame, but by the deep-seated human need for self-expression and transcendence. Through my art, I hope to capture the essence of the human experience, to reflect upon the passing of time, and to leave behind a legacy that affirms the interconnectedness of all things.