Muyi Xiao

Muyi Xiao

New York, United States
Wuhan, China
“There are things words can not express or that a photograph can convey more concisely. It's the power of visual language.”


Character-driven stories, breaking news

One Shot

. Anxi, CHINA. Reuters/Muyi Xiao
“A red blanket is a symbolic gift for a newly married couple. This one was bought by the mother of a young man I was photographing for a story about fake girlfriends. He had hired the girl over the Chinese New Year to try and stop his family pressuring him to get married. His mum had bought it hoping that the couple would be sleeping together - she was really disappointed when that wasn’t the case.”


We had a point-and-shoot film camera at home when I was little, but I never paid any attention to it. I don’t even know when my parents threw it away. Later at collage I became interested in filmmaking and sneaked into a film school to listen to lectures. Meanwhile I taught myself photography and filmmaking.

I was a photo editor at an online media company when an oil pipeline exploded in Qingdao in 2013. I had always wanted to be a photographer so when none of our staff were available I volunteered to shoot the story. It was my first time in the field photographing a disaster and the assignment left me with mixed feelings. I was pleased my images were published but also a sense of responsibility to the people affected - talking to victims made their sadness much more tangible than reading a news report.

When Malaysian Airways MH370 went missing I stayed in the hotel with the missing passengers’ families for a month. As well as covering the news, I documented an in-depth story about one man and his missing fiance. Spending so much time with him at the hotel and at their home made a huge impact on me. He kept a letter from her that he had never had a chance to read. He opened the letter with me and cried while reading it. I just sat next to him, unable to imagine his pain.

Through images an audience can develop a better understanding of a story. There are things words can not express or that a photograph can convey more concisely. It's the power of visual language.

It’s important for young photojournalists to find a responsible and strict editor. Damir Sagolj has mentored me and is very thoughtful and careful - I’m sure I might have made a mistake without his advice and support. He is not only a great photographer but also a great mentor.

It’s crucial for photographers to maintain high standards and follow strict guidelines, especially in an age when information can be easily faked. We should let readers know that there is still something to be trusted.

I'm excited about characters with interesting stories and personalities, as well as the general process of digging into a story to find subtle and surprising details.

Behind the Scenes

Muyi covers films a scientist at Ningxia Yunwushan Grassland Nature Reserve.