During Milan Fashion Week in January 2019, we came across a magazine featuring fashion photography series shot in Fujian, China, presenting Chinese fashion, particularly the traditional style costumes. To be honest, my first reaction was shocked and a bit surprised. The costumes and the scenic locations in the photos are not familiar to foreigners. Who created these images? Why were these images created? Having lots of questions in mind, we contacted photographer MOJA with curiosity and excitement, only to know that he is a fashion and beauty photographer recognized by his signature photography style, and one of the official partners and photographers of Cannes Film Festival in France. Let’s hear more insights about this photo series.
The Mirror: Hello Mr. MOJA, could you introduce yourself to our Chinese readers?
MOJA: Hello, I’m a fashion and beauty photographer. I love cinema and photography. I feel very fortunate to have established a long-term working relationship with Cannes Film Festival. It allows me to get first hand updates and to understand the relationship between fashion and culture from the perspective of film. In particular, I’m constantly pondering how to express the relationship between fashion and culture through photography.
The Mirror: What is your perspective on fashion and culture?
MOJA: I pay close attention to cross-cultural fashion. This may be related to my personal experience growing up. I am very grateful to you for not asking me where I am from. Every time someone asks me this question, I got a mixed feeling. The country where I was born no longer exists. Now it is the Republic of Congo. I moved to Italy at the age of 9. When I grew up, I moved to France, Belgium and other countries. I speak native African languages, Italian, French, English, and Luxembourgish, but I can’t answer which country I am from. Perhaps because of my experiences growing up, I always hope that the stories behind fashion and culture can be conveyed in my photos with very contrasting cross-cultural symbols.
The Mirror: Why did you choose Fujian for this photoshoot?
MOJA: I’m curious about Chinese tea. I heard that tea originated from Fujian, the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road, and then spread to Europe. I checked some China Travel Guides sold in Europe. Most of them are very thick guides with only 1-2 pages on Fujian. Although I had never been to Fujian at the time, I believed that there is tea in Fujian, and it must worth more than two pages. I contacted my Chinese partner for a visit in Fujian to see which local cultures can be shown through my lens, and to show the low-key Fujian to Westerners. I am very pleased that the photos taken this time have received good feedback in Europe. The photos will be exhibited during this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France. I have also been approached by major fashion and lifestyle magazines in Europe. I hope this is just the beginning, and I will have more opportunities to shoot in China in the future.
The Mirror: I saw that you chose to set the photoshoot in Fujian Fuzhou and Zhangzhou. What does this choice mean?
MOJA: China has always been a country with a strong family culture and the culture of roots. Sanfangqixiang and Tulou both reflects China’s family culture with their own characteristics. I hope that these can be shown through this fashion series. For this reason, I embedded many symbols of Chinese culture in the shooting sets, not only to show the beauty of fashion but also to tell stories, stories of people. Bringing in particular lighting, color and composition, we create narratives that resonates with the audience. We also chose cultural sites such as Xichan Temple, West Lake Park and Gushan Cliff, in connection with the inspirations we drew from the tales of Chinese legends. Some of these stories are very similar to the folklores we know in the West, such as “Liang Zhu” and “Romeo and Juliet”. I hope that while promoting Fujian in Europe, I can also share and get to know more about the Chinese culture. Of course, to do this, I need the help of the Chinese.
The Mirror: Is this the first time you organized a photoshoot in China? Is there anything that impresses you?
MOJA: It’s the first time I’ve come to China for photoshoot. I am also always very proud to tell my friends that I have not been to Beijing or Shanghai, but I have been to Fujian (laugh). The thing that impressed me the most was that I have a great partner in China. I have done photoshoots in different countries around the world. Our partner Bluestellar is one of the most efficient and open partners we’ve ever worked with. I brought a team of 14 professionals from Europe (no one speaks Chinese). We bought 133 boxes of shooting props, carried hundreds of kilos of photography equipment and shot more than 100 pages of script. I can say that this is one of the most important works in my career. One thing that touched me very much was the openness and the inclusiveness of the Chinese team, which gave me a very pleasant working experience. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the shooting.
The Mirror: What’s your next shooting location?
MOJA: The oasis in Mauritania, and the Tuareg people (the “blue men” in the desert) who are probably rarely known to the rest of the world.
The Mirror: Thank you for taking the time speaking with us, I wish you a successful photoshoot in Africa, and look forward to seeing more and more Chinese fashion and cultural photographs in the future.
MOJA: Thank you for the kind words.
此次在福建的拍攝，MOJA 用他簽名性的拍攝風格：以特殊的光影方式點亮圖片中心角色，給觀眾一種人物自帶光芒的視覺印象。此次MOJA與東方服裝設計師的碰撞不僅僅是一場服裝拍攝之旅，更是一次藝術創作，MOJA 希望用西方人的視角去呈現中國之美，向西方傳達中國當下的時尚品味與內涵。他通過點亮中國傳統中映射中國蓬勃的現代化發展，因為他深信這種發展與中國悠久的文化歷史基墊和當代新興創作者的支持是緊密相關的。
For the photoshoot in Fujian, MOJA imbibes the characters with a particular light, which is his trademark and gives spectator the impression that the light emanates from them. The collaboration between MOJA and Chinese fashion designers is not only a photo shooting trip, but also an artistic collaboration. MOJA hopes to present the beauty of China from a Western perspective, and to communicate the current state of fashion in China to the Western audience. Through highlighting the magnificence of Chinese traditions, MOJA shows the rapid growing modernity of China, because he believes that the new development is strongly supported by the long history of culture and the country’s contemporary creators.
(Image Source: Glamour Affair Magazine)