Are outstanding photographers and visionaries born or taught? Both … An ethereal, glorious combination of the two merge into one, at least when it comes to photographer Yilei Zhou. No doubt the creative flame was inside her from day one and has propelled Zhou throughout her life to take chances, going the extra mile, deeper, almost crawling inside the camera to give her photos soul. The very nature of creativity is that it must be released to be complete, and Zhou’s creativity, ingenuity and finesse are now wonderfully, completely taking over with her prolific collection of award-winning films and videos and her gorgeous photography as well.
Growing up in Shanghai, China, a city where different cultures merge and all art forms prosper, Yilei was exposed to the creative world since a very early stage of her life. She starts to develop interests in photography and visual arts since 14 years old. A maze of life events followed (including engineering school) and the enterprising artist was admitted to the Art Center College of Design, receiving her MFA in Film in 2016. Film alone was not her only calling however. Before and during her time at the ACCD, Zhou’s already enterprising photography skills were taking focus in her life, a pivotal role in her over-all creative plan.
She shoots landscape, people, performers, just about anything that strikes her fancy and does it with a unique and eclectic eye. Take her photograph of The Same LA River, for example. This is actually a 130-inch by 75-inch photo collage consisting of nine different photos shot on film. The prose that accompanies the photography is as follows:
I see the waves bloom
the river glitters
I see trains piercing through time
mixing future with the past
Clouds are drowning
I see the world disappears
A soul becomes visible
while his body is not there
and he tells me
One cannot step in the same LA river twice.
Zhou’s penchant for photographing the art of creation in its essence is her forte. Whatever the subject she will bring you there: A sweaty rock band gloriously immersed in their own sound, a single cellist, alone, beside a sunlight window, rehearsing. Artists poised behind easels, pencils raised, and young couples shimmering in the light of a summer’s night and in their love. The creative process, that spark that often eludes capture, has met its match with Zhou. She is an exceptional photographer, a brilliant visionary … and, oh, yes, you can tell the difference.