The 9-year-old girl who photographed Aquaman actor Jason Momoa and other stars has been hailed as Asia's sensation: what's special about her photos
Zou Shengyu is a 9-year-old Chinese photographer who has photographed more than a dozen famous personalities in her four-year career, including some of Asia's biggest and most influential celebrities. The fourth-grader from Shanghai also managed to work with Jason Momoa, the lead actor in the superhero movie Aquaman. The stunning successes made the girl a real sensation in Asia, and possibly the whole world.
The portfolio of Zou, who works under the professional pseudonym Shengsheng, mainly includes photo shoots of Chinese stars. There are portraits of actor Tony Leung, tennis legend Li Na, and rapper Lei Zhang. These shots helped the schoolgirl to collect more than 10 million likes and about 500 thousand followers on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. Her father is also a well-known photographer Zou Yupeng, who regularly posts about his talented daughter's work for his millions of followers. CNN published an interview with the unique child.
It all started when Shengsheng was given a camera with a point-and-shoot when she was 4 years old. The girl's father explained that he decided to encourage his daughter to take street photography after noticing how easily she could strike up a conversation with people wherever she went.
The little photographer's career began with her approaching strangers and asking them to pose for her. Once, when she was 5 years old, Shengsheng accidentally photographed the famous Chinese cellist and actress Ouyang Nan. Accidentally, because the child did not know who she was, and thought she was just photographing a very beautiful woman.
"She was so gentle and kind, and even knelt down so we were almost the same height. I didn't know who she was at the time, but I knew I wanted to be like her in the future," the girl recalls.
The chance meeting went viral on Chinese social media. Soon, Shengsheng began receiving invitations from movie promoters, mobile phone companies, and shampoo brands asking her to photograph other A-list stars.
"The more people I photograph on the streets, the more people recognize me, which leads to more opportunities to photograph celebrities," she says.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some social media users are asking how a 9-year-old girl can get photo shoots with Asia's biggest stars. But Shengsheng's father insists that her clientele has nothing to do with his own name and connections in the industry.
"Although Shengsheng is only a 9-year-old child whose technique still has a long way to go, artists' representatives like to come to us because people look a little different through Shengsheng's lens than they do during regular shoots with professional photographers. In Shengsheng's photos, you see a softer and more tender side of people, regardless of whether they are celebrities or not," her photographer father enthusiastically comments on the peculiarity of the girl's work.
One of the most significant moments in Shengsheng's career was her photo shoot for Jason Momoa. The girl admits that she was very nervous at the time, because she had to speak English to the world-famous actor, not her native language, but English.
"I was so nervous because I had to speak English. He was very big! I asked him to make more movements and gestures," the girl revealed.
Although the girl has many fans, she has already met with some critics. In particular, skeptics believe that the quality of Shengsheng's photos depends not on her, but on photo processing, the use of filters and Photoshop.
The child assures that sometimes her father does help her with minor edits, such as removing strands of hair or adjusting the color tone, but she never uses filters.
One of Shengsheng's most memorable encounters took place last year with Hong Kong movie legend Tony Leung, who was promoting his new blockbuster film, The Golden Finger. The 9-year-old girl said that at first she was very nervous, and the actor himself seemed aloof and closed off. However, in the end, the girl managed to make friends with the movie star and take amazing shots for him, full of warmth and sincerity.
"He was just really nice. He always brought a smile to my face. In my favorite photo from that shoot, Leung is leaning against the wall, and a ray of sunlight is falling on his face. Good composition is the key to portrait photography. When I see a round or triangular shape, I try to use it as a frame for my subjects. It's also important to consider what they are wearing - you can't ask someone to bend over if they are wearing an evening dress," the schoolgirl shared her own tricks.
Unlike many of her professional colleagues, Shengsheng usually shoots with analog film cameras. She says she likes their simple design and how light they are compared to the digital single-lens reflex cameras that most adult photographers now use.
"Although film photos can't be developed instantly, I prefer the warm and soft tones that film cameras produce. Developing photos from a film camera is a very exciting process, like opening a mysterious box, when you never know what you will get," the girl said.