Xuebing Self-portrait

Xuebing Self-portrait

Editors Notes: Could we be looking at the next modern day Georgia O'Keeffe? We think so! Our team has been following the work of Xuebing Du with great fascination as she has captivated us with her painterly images of nature. Her use of light and design has inspired us to look at plants, tree, and vistas differently with a fresh perspective. Xuebing's work in photography takes us into another realm with her beautiful form of art. We're excited for you to hear her perspective and view on her artistic vision. 



Motif: Hello, Xuebing, Its so great to finally meet you. We've been so looking forward to this chat. To get the ball rolling, tell me a little bit about what yourself and your background. 

Xuebing: Hi, I’m Xuebing Du, usually, I go by Maggie. I am a designer and photographer based in San Francisco. I recently graduated from Academy of Art University with an M.F.A degree in Web Design & New Media.

M3: Thats amazing, San Francisco is such an inspiring place. How do you feel that San Francisco has had an impact on your work or creative perspective?

X: I was born and raised in China, so San Francisco was new for me. It exposed me to new things and people. I feel now it is okay to express yourself in multiple ways because nobody is bothered to judge you. And it is great because, with California, I got to experience different things I’ve never got to back in China. 


M3: You, just graduated from Academy of Art University, congratulations. What did you study and how has the schooling helped you?

X: Thank you. I did my Masters degree in Web Design & New Media. I think it served as a bridge between the real world and a “protected environment” of school. I was able to spend three years exploring what I liked, without worrying about any consequences. School has definitely pushed me to think about design with intentions, and helped to improve my design thinking as well as programming skills. I’m glad I had this experience though I didn’t enjoy school as much.

M3: Would you recommend schooling to a person stepping into the creative industry?

X: If you are talented and have discipline in what you do, I recommend just go out and do it instead of going to school. I think this can apply to anything or any industry. In my case, due to my international student status, I didn’t have much of a choice. 


M3: Working in web and brand design is such an intentional and intricate field, what about it fascinates and inspires you?

X: I do find design interesting and a fun discipline. It requires a lot of thoughts, ideation, testing, and you need to deliver the end result based on user needs as well as clients wishes. I like working on beautifully crafted designs. It fascinates me because I got to use my brain analytically, I like it when the design result is emotional and connects with people. It’s quite an opposite discipline to photography, and it’s a good balance for me.

M3: Tell me about your work, what led you to photography?

X: I took some photography courses while at school, and it was my formal introduction to the photography world. I got to learn the history of photography and was exposed to some masters in the photography world. I enjoyed their work and was amazed by how magical photography can be. I enjoy the making of an image and the fact that I can communicate my vision through it.

M3: Your style, colors, execution and your vision are so unique, how did you arrive at your current style? Why plants and nature?
How did your artistic expression of this start?

X: Thank you! I think it’s a result of experiments. I and my partner at that time were traveling a lot, and we took lots of photos together. So I guess it was a natural progression of me forming a style. I don’t think you can force a style to come. After thousands, tens of thousands photos, you gradually understand what you are really drawn to, and my obsessions turned out to be nature. I am drawn to something that’s alive. Plants are one of my favorite subjects to shoot, I just find them fascinating to view and enjoy. I like to look at plants closely, to capture their vines, and to present plants as I visualize them, wild and lush like the wilds of a jungle. 


M3: Some of our favorite photographers are former designers and came from a design background. They often are so intentional in their work, how do you use your perspective as a designer in your photography?

X: Yes, there’re lots of designers that are across mediums and doing amazing photography as well. Designers draw inspirations from art and photography, and I think designers usually have the eye for composition and color. I see lots of designers are into compositions in photography. I do appreciate the simplicity in photography, and my early work were purely about composition and color. Now what I’m trying to achieve is to communicate photography on an emotional level, and to really add depth and textures in the work I do.

M3: What is your photo process like? How do you choose a subject, What’s your mental process.Your images have the beautiful appearance of paintings, how have you achieved it?

X: When I go out to shoot, I let the surroundings, and the people affect me. I let them come naturally to me. Sometimes I do have an idea of how I want the images to be, while other times I don’t, and I’m all fine with that. My eyes are consistently searching, searching for things that draw my attention. Lately, I’ve got really into historical art, and I want to study what color combinations and tones can do to an image. If I want to learn about color, then I really want to understand what is going on with color, how it affects human eyes and psychology. At this stage, I’m still a beginner, which keeps me exploring and wanting to know more. I like the idea of really feeling the temperature, the mood, the time of an image.


M3: Tell me about the process of making your photo book.
Why did you create it and how has the response been?

X: My first photography book started out from as layout design exercise in my spare time. I enjoyed playing around with the photos I took and making use of them by using them as design elements. I had a certain amount of photo works ready at that time. After ten, twenty pages, it became a book. So it was actually a beautiful accident. The response was pretty good. It got published and people seemed to like it. I’m happy about it, and I’d love to do another one once I feel my photography work is ready again. 

M3: Taking your work to print is often such an introspective process, do you look at your imagery differently now? Did you have a challenge in narrowing down your work?

X: Yes, digital and prints are quite different. When I got my photos printed out, I found that some colors lose the charm, like rich red turns grey, and lush green turns blue. It was a disappointment when I first saw the prints. It actually took some time for the photo lab assistant to explain to me why certain colors change in the print, as I used to think what you see on the screen is what you got in the prints.

M3: As your stepping out from school and now growing your portfolio who do you take inspirations from and were would you like your journey to take you?

X: Yes, I’m finally getting out of schooling, I am really excited about what’s ahead of me, and can’t wait to see what I can do. My inspirations may not come from a particular person, I guess they came through my own experiences and fantasies. Creatively, I draw inspirations from music, movies, art etc. I also get inspirations from strong women who are not afraid to be who they are, and I would love to become someone like that. Whatever I work on in the future, I want to be free and really in control of my life. 


Follow More of Xuebing Work at: 

Check out her photo book here:

Photos by Xuebing
Editor: Joel Bear