Arrivals and Departures with Jacob Aue Sobol: Episode 5 – Beijing

© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol© Jacob Aue Sobol
© Jacob Aue Sobol

“I can’t live without you.”

The train takes me through the Gobi-desert, Inner Mongolia and the mountains before reaching Beijing. The landscape changes and so does the weather. From Winter to Spring. From -20 in Siberia to +20 in Beijing.

I’ve heard they are difficult to get close to – the Chinese. I find it hard to believe. Is it not always the same? The way you connect with people? To me it seems more difficult not to be close. I feel safe when I’m near other people. When I’m far away, I get lost and can’t feel anything, so therefore it’s natural for me to take one step closer. And so I do in Beijing.

In the streets I try not to make any rational decisions about what to photograph and what not. I do not have any rules. I take pictures of everything on my way: a tree, a building, a shadow, a person. Sometimes it takes me two hours to get down a street, because there are so many things to photograph and people to meet.

When I have photographed in the street for a few days, I begin to feel sad. Even though my images from the streets can be close, photographing people in their own home, surrounded by the things that belong to them and make them feel safe is a total different experience. When I have photographed someone like this, I feel I have an experience to share with that person for the rest of my life.

The most bizarre question I ever got from a journalist was from a photo- Magazine asking me if the figures in my images were mannequins. The mannequin-series, he called it. He simply did not believe that it was possible to photograph humans like this. But the people I photograph are real, and I look at them, and I try to find something that connects us. I try to find a piece of myself in them. I feel warm when I look at two people desperately holding on to each other, saying: “I can’t live without you.”

I admire all the people I take pictures of because they put themselves in a very vulnerable position. They trust me and I trust them, and it is important for me that there’s a mutual understanding of this. That we’re communicating in a way where it’s not just ‘me looking at them’, but there’s an exchange of emotions and life.

-Jacob Aue Sobol

To learn more about Jacob and view his work, visit his website at www.auesobol.dk. To follow the series, please visit “Arrivals and Departures”.

Photo layout by Sun Hee Engelstoft

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10 comments

  • Dear Jacob,

    I am living in Asia for more than 20 years and I wonder how you have been able to take intimate photos of Asians in the short time that you had available.

    Your photos are surely having a strong and loud voice

  • I lived in Asian for more than half of my life. I’m sure that Jacob didn’t just meet these people on the street and asked them by himself to take intimate photos of them. I guess a lot of the shootings were arranged by people who helped Jacob and he didn’t give them credit and so much of what he said was just bullshit.

  • Dear puppylover,

    I feel sorry for you. You sound so sad, jealoux and upset.

    Good luck!

  • Well…..I just wonder why Jacob did not answer to the question, I am sure that I am not the only one having this question in mind….

  • Agreed with Luciano. Jacob traveled on behalf of Leica and now we have to be like stupids? He has to answer questions to give more details about the trip and camera. If not it will be a boring time.

  • I echo Luciano. It seems it to be very unrealistic to believe that the oldest nation on earth let you go to their bedrooms and pose for you so intimately.
    Artistically, however, I love your pictures. They remind me Moriyama and Tomatsu. Great work. With such portfolio you do not need any of the things you have said as truth. What is wrong if you simply say that they were models, and were paid? Does it hurt Monochrom’s performance?

  • One of the problems with having such a distinctive style as Jacob is that it becomes somewhat monotonous and hard to distinguish one image or location from the other. His ethics and desire to be close to his subjects is abmirable but do we always need crotch shots of various women and men to prove it?

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