Being a photographer in China when you’re not a native can be challenging due to the lack of network, language, and tight rules of the country when it comes to the use of Internet.
But in today’s troubled times due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the obstacles are even greater and the uncertainty is ever growing. In this interview, we talk with our member, Alina Kasimova, about her experience in the country.
Originally from Russia, Alina moved to China last year in September. After nearly five months in the country, she realised being a photographer in such a different environment was challenging and not necessarily a catalyst for new opportunities.
Today, we chat about her path to photography, the challenges she faced, as well as the current situation in China due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Could you start by briefly describing yourself? Who is Alina Kasimova?
I am a professional photographer who finds inspiration everywhere: people, streets, nature, magazines, art — and that brings incredible experience and joy.
What led you to photography?
Everything started in my childhood. I was surrounded by creative people. My mother was an Art teacher — she drew very well — and my sister and brother played musical instruments.
At first, my mom took me to the Art School where I was studying music for nine years. And after that, I started going to the Art studio. Fortunately, I was so inspired by every lesson that even when I was upset about my drawings, I would keep going to the classes.
At the time, I was also in touch with a friend who had started experimenting taking photos with a small camera. We usually talked about different photographers and discussed photos and cameras — I guess she influenced me.
So since my 13 years-old, I have been passionate about photography. Studying at the Art College gave me many ideas and motivation to grow professionally and to create works that nobody has ever done before.
How is it for a Russian photographer to work in China?
Working as a photographer was harder for me in China. Nobody knew me there and most Chinese do not speak English. Furthermore, usual applications and softwares to find clients are forbidden in the country.
How would you describe the experience?
I would say it was quite challenging.
As a citizen of Russia, I can’t understand some of the differences in mentality and etiquette. For example, throwing garbage on the road or in the park is normal in China. While in Russia, everyone throws garbage in the trash can.
You were based in Zhengzhou until January. How was it to live in China in such troubled times?
I left China when people didn’t know a lot about the Coronavirus, it still wasn’t spread. But I remain in touch with friends who currently live there.
There are not many people on the streets and universities, schools are closed, and there’s few food in the small shops. At the same time, it’s possible to go to the food store once a day at a certain time, so that you can buy the food you need.
The cities in China are extremely polluted and Zhengzhou was one of such cases. I’ve seen many times the city services cleaning the roads and spraying some substances into the air.
During virus infection, they started to spray these disinfecting substances even more in most cities.
How would you describe the situation at the moment?
Nobody knows when everything will be the same. Some universities have lessons online because of the virus and some companies ask their employees to stay indoors and not to work. What is more important is canceling all the flights from China to other countries.
Do you plan on going back?
I’m not going back to Zhengzhou. If I ever go back to China, I’ll go to Shanghai, which is a more modern and clean city. The amount of foreigners and interesting events is much larger, what makes it more attractive and unique.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m working as a freelance photographer and retoucher in Russia and I’m planning on starting to advertise more my personal brand for beauty and commercial projects.
Alina Kasimova is a beauty and fashion photographer currently based in Russia. To see more of her work, check out her Cherrydeck profile or her Instagram, here. For more on photography in Asia, have a look at the project “Stacked” by our member Peter Stewart. ?