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Focus on fame

Updated: 2016-05-09 08:44:17

( chinadaily.com.cn )

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Portrait taken by Pang Xiaowei: Actor Ge You [Photo provided to China Daily]

Simple black-and-white celebrity portraits are windows on his subjects' characters, photographer Pang Xiaowei tells Deng Zhangyu .

For decades, Pang Xiaowei has been shooting black-and-white portraits for thousands of celebrities in China.

The 60-year-old photographer has captured the likenesses of all the Olympic gold medal holders in China up to 2012 and more than 1,000 celebrities, from singers to film-industry figures, including famed directors, performers and producers.

"Color photos are novels to tell beautiful stories, while black-and-white photos are like poems, leaving room for imagination," Pang says of his obsession with monochrome.

"What should I wear?" "Do I need to put on makeup?" These are questions celebrities ask most as Pang prepares to take a portrait.

Pang tells them to wear what makes them comfortable in daily life. "To be who they are in daily life and be natural," he says. "Very simple."

It usually takes him 15 to 20 minutes to finish his camera work.

He started to snap celebrities in the film industry in 2002 to honor the 100th anniversary of China's film industry. It took him nearly four years to frame more than 1,000 famed faces, including actresses like Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, and directors Zhang Yimou and Jiang Wen.

Most of those celebrities never knew him before their friends introduced Pang to them. He often only had three to five minutes to get his shot.

He often waited for his models when they were busy shooting for a film. For instance, he took the photo of Zhang Ziyi when she rested while performing the leading role for the film Purple Butterfly in 2003.

The difficulty of photographing an actor or actress is that they don't know how to be themselves in front of a camera when they don't have to play a role, says Pang.

Pang understands it well because he had been a theater actor for 10 years before taking up photography at age 30.

"If someone takes a photo of me, asking me to be who I am, I would be very nervous," says Pang.

Pang loved to take photos for his friends when he was an actor. After visiting a solo show of the late American photographer Ansel Adams, famed for his charming black-and-white photography, Pang felt the power and beauty of the simple colors. Then he made up his mind to follow in Adams' steps.

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