Chinese artist uses Photoshop skills to help couples become childhood sweethearts

By Chen Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/25 17:48:40

Photos by Chinese artist Ma Liang in which two childhood photos have been combined using Photoshop Photo: Courtesy of Ma Liang

In a pale white photo, a little girl with a ponytail dressed in a coat much too big for her smiles like sunshine, revealing a few missing baby teeth. On her right side, a little boy closely leans on the girl. He looks very shy, staring at the camera with a slight smile. 

They look like childhood sweethearts, but in fact the people in the photo didn't meet until they were adults. 

Who has not dreamed of having a childhood sweetheart? 

Chinese artist Ma Liang has been helping people fulfill this wish by using his Photoshop skills to combine couples' childhood photos together and create a dream of pure youthful love.  

Birth of inspiration 

"I came up this idea after my wife and I had our first baby last year. I felt the warmness of our family. Thanks to my wife and the birth of my daughter, I Photoshopped a picture [of us together as children] as a gift and she really liked it," Ma told the Global Times.

Ma said that his cousins and friends asked him to do something similar for them after they saw the photo on his WeChat account. 

This eventually led to the birth of his "childhood sweetheart photo studio," which he launched on Sina Weibo. The fresh and interesting concept immediately captured the attention of many Chinese netizens, who emailed photos of themselves to Ma.

"For them, the photo is an illusion of love, while for me, their satisfaction toward my work makes me happy and gives me the motivation to keep doing it," he said. 

Each photo is a unique love story. 

"A husband submitted a request to me. He was hoping to create a childhood photo with his wife. Later I found out that his wife was terminally ill and would soon pass away," Ma said.  

"After seeing Ma's project on Sina Weibo, we turned over a lot of photos from our childhoods. We found out that we shared a lot of connections when we were children since we both grew up in the same district in Shanghai, which made us feel that we could have met each other earlier," Jiang Hong, a Shanghai resident, told the Global Times.

Photo exhibition 

Ma has designed photos for more than 150 couples since the establishment of his studio, 50 of which went on display at a public art exhibition at the Meiluocheng shopping mall in Shanghai on Friday morning.

Ma said he has been very touched by all the positive feedback from his clients. 

"One of my clients told me that if I include his photo in the exhibition, he and his family would fly to Shanghai for a visit. I agreed, and they really came."

Although he could not print all the photos and hang them on the wall of the art space, he made a video for the exhibition that includes all the works. 

To make the display of photos even more interesting, Ma also makes use of artificial reality (AR) technology.

According to Ma, visitors can download an app designed by his friends and take a picture of any of the photos on display and the app will play a short animation made for that photo. 

The photo frames used in the exhibition are also very unique. Ma said he bought the 50 frames of different materials and sizes through a second-hand online app. He said that the used and odd-looking photo frames might not be brand new, but that their imperfections hinted at untold stories and were the perfect fit for the odd photos. 

"I spent seven months preparing for the exhibition and did a lot of research about photo studios. Interestingly, I found that the moon is a symbol of love and that models of the moon can be found in photo studios both in China and Western counties," Ma said, noting that the model of the moon in his exhibition is one of his favorite designs. 

Exploring photography

"The project and exhibition are all free. I just do this to create art," Ma said.

This is not the first time that Ma has provided such an art service. He once launched a mobile studio in 2012. Working out of the back of a truck, he traveled around different cities to provide free wedding photo services to couples.

"I went to 50 cities in China with my mobile studio. At the time, Sina Weibo had just emerged and I started an online project. If more than 20 couples needed my services in a city, I would head there," he said.

"Currently, I am doing contemporary photography because, nowadays, photography itself is full of different kinds of possibilities, just like this photo studio, it is simple but deeply touches people's hearts. I have always wanted to explore the relationship between photography and our lives. The photo studio is a good starting point, and I am planning to keep doing it," Ma said.
Newspaper headline: Retroactive romance

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