Episode #2: “The Girl with a Camera”


Listen to the Podcast

DOWNLOAD Episode #2  (11 minutes)

For more of my conversation with Muyi, DOWNLOAD here. (30 minutes)

About Muyi Xiao

Muyi Xiao first caught my eye with her urgently captivating photo collection titled “Married Young.”

It’s a story about teenage parents in China. One photo shows a 16 year-old mother, gazing adoringly at the sleeping infant in her arms.


Another photo caption says Jian and Mei are expecting a baby in a few months. They were 15 and 16 when they got married.


I was scratching my head going…what? Why? Why so young? What about school? What’s the story here?

As I kept clicking more pictures for clues, I stopped asking questions. I started seeing each photo through the eyes of these children. The camera has turned my focus to the happy faces, thin bodies and tiny bed, projecting a reality that is immediately pure and profoundly provocative. They seem to be speaking back to me through these photos, saying “I’m a mother and I am happy.” “We’re having a baby. We are going to take care of each other.”

These touching images left me in awe. Who’s behind the camera?

That led me to Muyi Xiao.  Born in Wuhan, China, 24 year-old Muyi has worked for Reuters and Tencent for a couple of years before moving to New York for a Magnum fellowship, and a new media training program at the International Center for Photography. I tracked down Muyi for a cup of coffee in New York. We talked like old friends for an hour, and I knew, I had to interview her for my new podcast.

Muyi’s story is about a girl who knew early in life that growing up in a rural family with no money, no connection, and parents with no college education or exposure to the West, she had to be independent, persistent and positive. But still, how does a girl who’s failed the college entrance exam in China, notoriously known as Gaokao move on with her life? Where could she go? How did she end up in Beijing? Why did she pick up a camera and how did that become her passion and calling in life?

Let her story surprise you.


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Mable, New York

Mable Chan

Mable Chan is the founder of China Personified. Her contact is mablechan@chinapersonified.com.