FOCUS ON - Yujie Gao

Yujie Gao in her own words.

I live in Changde, Hunan Province and for the last 10 years I’ve been taking self-portraits.

I got my first SLR camera at the age of 13. I didn’t know how to adjust the parameters, aperture, ISO or shutter, but I was so happy. Then I started to learn by myself. Many theoretical books were incomprehensible, and countless proper nouns appeared on the paper. So I didn’t listen to the maths lessons, and copied a whole book on photography theory in my notebook, page by page. After copying it, I found that I understood everything and was free to take more photos. 

I hate winter and it’s easy for me to get in a bad mood, so from the beginning of winter I took a photo of myself every day until spring came. The photos were not beautiful or technical, but after that winter was over, I looked at the photos and realised how happy I had been that season.

I started to enjoy travelling alone at the age of 16. I have been to the highlands and seaside with my camera. Before dawn, I ran to the beach to take pictures. During my overwhelmed adolescence, the time framed in the camera was a lot better than reality. This unreal beauty instead gave me a belief that life would be better.

I had a lot of acne on my face and for a long time I was afraid to show my face and take clear pictures, I just wanted to cover my face. I took pictures of myself not daring to show my face and the process of going to the hospital for treatment.Then I realised that it was a normal thing and I should be positive about it.

Then I started to use photography to address a bigger issue, the legacy of my childhood. I started boarding school at the age of six, for which I shed a lot of tears as a child and never let go on as an adult. I started taking my photographs and then went back to my primary school to put myself into the memories of the school. I went back there and looked at myself in the photos and all the sadness drifted away like clouds in the sky.

The process of taking a selfie is interesting, often I can’t focus perfectly, I can’t get the ideal composition and light, and I have to take many shots to get the shot I want. But the anticipation and “again” of going back and forth in front of and behind the camera made each moment more precious than ever.

Through the selfies I can clearly see what moods I had during that time, happy, sad, confused, angry, free. When I look at the photos and think back to those days, I know more clearly how to live my life. The me in the photo is reminding me that you are happy when you live like this, and you are sad when you live like this, and you will know how to make choices in the future.