Sijiagou

  • Photography  Amelie Kahn-Ackermann
  • Words  Abi Buller

The nomadic lifestyle of photographer Amelie Kahn-Ackermann provides inspiration for her photographic talent. Her work focuses on documenting the people and places approached on her unique journeys. From rural China to the metropolis of Moscow and her student life in Berlin, Amelie achieves a raw and authentic visual style which reflects her passion for portraying interesting people through her imagery. She particularly enjoys exploring the lifestyle of youth in rural areas, and considering their future paths towards new directions and cultures. PYLOT speaks to Amelie about her recent project documenting the rural Chinese village, Sijiagou.

In your personal statement for the series Sijiagou, you mention how the children living in this village will often leave in search of an urban lifestyle. Was your upbringing similar to the children you mention in your personal statement, Sijiagou

My upbringing was different to those of the children that are shown in my work. My grandfather left this village when he was sixteen and he never came back. I was born in Beijing and grew up in very big cities, like Rome and Moscow. The region where Sijiagou is located is very remote and rural, so coming there felt like discovering an unknown way of life.

How do you think the young girls from Sijiagou feel about living in the village? 

It’s hard to tell how these girls will feel about their future once they’re grown up, but in general most of the young population leave the villages behind and just a few will stay.

Can you explain the reasoning behind some of the choices of location in your imagery? 

Most of the portraits are taken at places where I met my subjects, or in their homes. I didn’t really look for a specific background for each person but instead used what was given in the moment

Do you often seek landscapes to inspire your imagery, or is your focus instead on the subjects present? 

I’ve always been inspired by the landscape in the village: The colour and the ruggedness of the Loess Hills mirror themselves in the simple clay houses where people live. The landscape images are especially important for the portraits. My main focus, however, always lies with the people that I want to portray.

Similarly, is it important to you to feature self-portraits and personal imagery within your series’? 

The whole series is highly personal for me as most of the people I’ve pictured are family members, so spending time there felt like bridging a gap and discovering this part of my cultural heritage.