China Through My Lens: Fake Mosuo prostitutes, Great Wall adventures with Italian photographer Luca Locatelli

Culture, Travel | by Stephan Larose
Posted: February 5th, 2011 | Updated: July 25th, 2012 | Comments
Luca Locatelli We first came across Yunnan and Sichuan's provinces. Luca's work has graced the pages of L’Espresso, D di Repubblica, IL, Riders, Courrier International, Le Monde 2 and Courrier Japon. Luca kindly took a moment out of his Milan—Jakarta flight to talk to us about his China experiences... How did you get started in photography? Luca Locatelli: After a career in visual communications I traveled to the Amazon rain forest and found myself falling in love with the art. I hadn't done any photography before that point, I bought my first camera out of sheer curiosity and a hunch that the Amazon would yield great photos. Like I said, it was love at first shot and after those travels I simply could not continue with my day job. A year later I left the company to launch my career in photography. From that moment forward, I've taken my camera everywhere with me, the U.S., Africa, Europe and especially Asia. What made you decide to come to China?   Lugu Lake, China, where reside the Musuo people LL: I came here on assignment for an Italian magazine, we were shooting in Hainan. I had such a great experience there that I decided to come back to China so that I could travel and explore this amazing country in depth. I find China, and all of Asia, to be simply amazing amazing, it is full of stories to tell. (I'm actually writing you this during yet another flight to Asia and China!) Does China offer photographers anything you can't find anywhere else? LL: China's historical and economic circumstances make this place both completely unique and really interesting. Personally, I think China has been the most talked about story of the last 10 years. You meet so many people here who's lives and situations really express and capture what it is to live in such a rapidly changing world. Your photography of China's Mosuo matriarchal society was recently picked up by the Guardian UK. Tell us a bit about your experience with the Mosuo people. What did you learn and enjoy while there? LL: The Mosuo people are changing too! To tell you the truth I was quite shocked when I realized just [pullquote]To tell you the truth I was quite shocked when I realized just how many prostitutes dress like Mosuo woman in the karaoke bars of Luoshi, I guess the "matriarchal society fantasy" is really selling with some of the less scrupulous Han tourists. Luca Locatteli[/pullquote]how many prostitutes dress like Mosuo woman in the karaoke bars of Luoshi, I guess the "matriarchal society fantasy" is really selling with some of the less scrupulous Han tourists. But if you go to Lugu Lake or other cities you can discover the real Mosuo culture and enjoy that wonderful area. I hope the Mosuo get to enjoy all those modern conveniences and opportunities everyone else enjoys in the future, but retain all their amazing traditions. Which part of China did you enjoy photographing the most and why? LL: Undoubtedly Yunnan, Sichuan and China's southwestern provinces. The light, the sights and the people are simply amazing. What was the most extraordinary part of your visit to China? LL: For sure the Great Wall, it's really quite amazing. I got so much perspective into the Chinese way of thinking, their history, their culture by combining a long walk along the wall with a great read—about the Great Wall! I think the book's impact was great, greatly enhanced from the fact that I was right there experiencing everything it was talking about. What was the most bizarre thing you saw or experienced while you were here?   Chinese women enjoy Hainan's waters LL: I'd have to say Chinese tourists, I found them so odd that I did a story about them. It's really curious for me to see the attitude of Chinese people visiting their own country. I still don't know if I "get" it. What advice would you give to photographers coming to China for the first time? LL: You have to abandon everything you think you know about China. All those preconceptions, all those cliches and stereotypes, just throw them out. Find a different angle, read some books, and especially smile and speak with people. As soon as I smiled and engaged people everything changed. If you were coming back to China where would you go and why? LL: I'd really like to go see Shanghai simply because I've never been there. What's your next photographic project? LL: I'm doing a multimedia project in Asia designed for the Web and the Tablet PC like the iPad. New media is so exciting, the future of information through new media is unlimited. Best of luck with those future projects! See more of Luca's work at Got some great some China travel photos? Then enter our Ctrip China Travel Photography Contest for the chance to win fantastic prizes and share your photos with the rest of the world—simply tag your Flickr photos with "ctrippic" or email them to us directly at
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