I'm Elsa, French film photographe @elsa_asia based in Shanghai for 7 years. I've been exploring Chinese culture, the voices of young locals and a never ending cityscape mutation through my lens.
how’s life different between the youth of France and Shanghai ?
The political and cultural context is so different. I've been around post nineties Chinese people, born during the "One-Child-Policy" and raised in major Chinese cities, when the Chinese economy was taking off. On the other hand, their parents lived through challenging economic and cultural times and the "One-Child-Policy" made them focus all their energy, money and attention on their single child. My point is, they are privileged, they are self-centered and have never faced the difficulties of older generations neither the difficulties that we could face in the West. Imagine the burden of a student loan debt. They don't have this kind of issue to think about. For them, life is great and it can only get better. It does not mean that everything is easy for them because it's not. Competition is high in every single field. They are facing huge family pressure such as succeeding, getting married and having kids. But to me, they are very optimistic and it's inspiring. Another important point about the Chinese youth is what they aspire for. I will focus on my Chinese friends who have strong personalities and are staying away from conformity. They are tattoo artists, performers, musicians, stylists, videographers, photographers. To me, they strive for success, any kind. They build up businesses, create or go on stage at a very early age. They have a fast paced life, grab opportunities in a sec and are quick learner. They are not scared of what tomorrow will bring. Which also means that they enjoy life and new experiences no matter how risky it can be. The West is one source of inspiration for them. The Chinese internet "Great Wall" does not stop them from being ultra-connected on Western social media platforms such as Instagram which is actually blocked here. did you feel your creative process changed? if so , how? Everything seemed complicated at first because I am in a country where I don't fully speak the language and I don't fully understand the culture but actually everything ends up easier here if you are patient, flexible and if you have guts. In terms of creative process, everything is so much faster: decisions, creation, execution. People come to you to collaborate very spontaneously. It's generally surprising and so stimulating, which is good for creatives and photographers like me. The down side: competition is higher as well as the pressure to deliver something super good, super fast. But still, tones of opportunities. did you feel yourself inspired in new ways? I’m visually stimulated all the time simply because I’m living in a country with a completely different culture than mine. I’m very attentive to details and I love to observe what’s around me. The inspiration comes from the daily surroundings (lighting, colors, architecture, lifestyle, food, typo, habits), the cityscape mutation and the people living here, Chinese or Western people, strangers or not, but especially the ones I'm surrounded with. They are full of energy, positivity and ideas, which encourages me to shoot more, take initiative and try new things. I've met the most inspiring people in Shanghai, which is for me a talent magnet city. how do you connect with a country so different in cultures and habits so different than Europe? The best way to over come culture differences is to dive into it, be friends with locals and be open-minded. You’ll have ups and downs, you’ll miss home, but it’s worth it. who are the most two inspiring girls you met there? what are their stories? There are so many inspiring girls here. But I would choose: - 犰犰 (Qiuqiu), from Beijing. At about 18, she moved to Shanghai where she knew no one. What’s inspire me is her fun and generous personality. She is the kind of person who instantly spreads love and positivity around and makes you feel at home, which feels great when you are more than 9000km away from yours. She also designs super cool clothes. - Daliah Spiegel, from Austria. She moved to Shanghai a couple of years ago and opened her space “celebrating food and weirdness”. I had the chance to exhibit there a series of Girls Portraits with explosive personalities. For me Daliah is a living emoticon/sticker, dressing up everyday like no one else. She is a life explorer and most importantly she is making waves in Shanghai and shaking up stereotypes. She is an amazing film photographer too. (I’ve also attached a couple of portraits of them that I’ve shot, it's under the name Qiuqiu and Daliah)
lensed by @waxwitch
We have oral fixations and obsessions , the dreams we own , people we've been with, it's a thing we do over and over again just to chase a feeling , some things that don't last for long , it is in our natural habitat to find comfort within people , strangers , pulling one nighters , sleepless nights in beds where we don't belong, trying to forget yet we seem to tangle ourselves even more. We need to be rescued from the boredom , we can't sit still, entertainment is our middle name...what will it take to find ur happiness? how long will we race our own selves? if we don't enjoy the ride that leads to our dreams , what are they for? why work hard if not to enjoy the process? We fixate on pain , it gets harder to let go of the ones that numbed it for so long, i'm here to let you know , it can be done. Don't wallow in the same thoughts , give yourself time to heal , love yourself and let go of the pain , it's a long process, believe in yourself.
For a while there, everywhere I looked the signs “love yourself first” surrounded me yet I didn’t even know where to begin. I thought self help books would be the answer and within those pages the repetition of self worth and looking into the mirror didn't help and it felt cheesy , what i learned was that it's all a simple process. The lies we have all been told by others, “you are not beautiful, smart, skinny, not enough” are just that - lies.
Self love is about creating your own truth and believing you are enough. My beliefs about myself did not go away overnight. Self hate is stubborn and embedded in us, but I’ve learned that self love takes patience and commitment. Self love is not a one way track to happiness, it’s a rollercoaster journey of discovering who you are, deciding to be the best version of yourself, for yourself.
Be who you are and love who that person is. Take time to figure out what makes you happy and fill your life with those things (because guess what? You deserve to be happy). Forgive yourself for the things that make you cringe when you look back at them. Thank your past self for teaching you the things you know today. Be grateful for the good you’ve done for yourself, be grateful for who you are. Focus on the good that you know exists within you. Caring for yourself will allow you to care for others. Self love has taught me to treat myself the way I want others to treat me. I believe there is no perfect path to self love, but it starts with a promise to be your own biggest fan.