By Daniel Broadley
David Adesanya is a Manchester Metropolitan University architect student embarking on a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. Taking advantage of the Study China project, he will be spending time in Beijing working on an exciting creative photography series. David aims to challenge the idea that social media divides us and will look to connect the West with the Far East with honest and insightful photography of the everyday folk of Beijing. Judging by the success of Humans of New York, this is something to keep an eye out for. Humanity Hallows caught up with David to find out more…
Can you tell us how the project came about?
The title of the project is ‘Behind Beijing’ and that illustrates what I’m going to be doing there. I’m going to be talking to individuals who live in Beijing, learning about their experiences, their culture and their insights and world views. I find it quite interesting that we live in the West and there’s so much going on in the East. They have completely different traditions and live completely different lives to us. It’s great to discover and uncover these differences, but also to see the parallels. That’s a big thing for me. I think in terms of awareness, the lives of people in China are not as public and I’d like it to be. I feel the communication of lives in the East is less fluid than it is in the UK. I’m just trying to direct my insight and share my experiences with others.
Why did you choose photography as a medium?
Honestly, I think it’s the fact that in this day and age with social media – and so many different types of social media – it’s known for creating a division between people, between relationships and making people more isolated.
I guess one of the things that made me more excited, inspired me, what made me believe in the possibilities of social media, was one of the works by the guy who does Humans of New York (HONY), which was a photography project with text, exploring the lives of people in New York. That was someone that made me say
“Wow!” This guy has managed to use the platform of social media to connect people together rather than create false identities. He’s provided a true insight into people’s lives. I thought, ‘OK, this is something I would love to be part of,’ and that’s why I’ve chosen to use photography.
You’re an architecture student… How has travelling to Beijing come about?
I found out about the Study China project which seemed like a great opportunity. The government covers accommodation and food and I thought ‘Why not try it out?’ I love Asian culture. I’ve been learning Mandarin since high school. I play table tennis competitively and China is number one for table tennis so, again, I’m able to develop my skills, develop my talents.
Which photographers inspire you?
I’m inspired by Emmanuel Hammond. I met him at a networking event and I told him about my project and he said he’d be happy to support me and teach me skills. Emmanuel’s work is pretty deep and he’s learned the craft – you’re always continually learning. He’s shared his experiences with me and shown me how to overcome problems I haven’t reached yet. I’m also inspired by paintings – possibly even more than photos, but, again, it’s all about that visual communication.
“A picture tells a thousand words but I want to evoke more than visual communication.”
By sharing pictures and telling stories, I want to evoke emotions. I want to create more of a sensual connection. I hope my work can do that for other people.
What do you hope to achieve with Behind Beijing?
Interconnection between the West and the East. Just evoking a connection between individuals. If just one individual becomes conscious of the lives in China, or less ignorant of the lives of people in China, I will have achieved something. What previous experiences have led you to this project? In terms of community work and, in particular, engaging with other cultures, my experience of working with vInspired last year has led me to this project. I was working as a leader of the North West, working in politics by engaging young people with voting, tackling local food inequality and tackling the stigma of young people who care for their siblings or their parents. This work enabled me to be more confident undertaking this project now. Working on previous campaigns with vInspired and speaking to politicians speaking to young people, producing Facebook campaigns and engaging with prominent YouTubers, have all built a good foundation for me and for this project.
What advice would you give to someone who has an idea for their own project? How can they make it happen?
I’d say – delay is not denial. Just because a project may take a while, or you may not be able to fund it straight away, or people say no – it doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams or give up on your passion. Stay humble, keep the faith and believe in it. At times, it’s just going to be you. At times, people will be drawn to your passion, so stay confident and be able to share ideas. Also, remember criticism can be really beneficial. If I hadn’t shared my ideas, the project wouldn’t be as developed as it is now and I’m still going to continue. Just be encouraged and stay humble.
You can follow the project at behingbeijing.org and @BehindBeijing