Sheng Li

Sheng Li

Shenyang, China
Juancheng, China
“As a photojournalist you should always keep a calm mind and sharp eyes when covering any kind of event.”


I cover financial features, quirky news and interesting folk culture stories.

One Shot

. BASHA, China. REUTERS/Sheng Li
A man belonging to China's Miao ethnic minority shaves another villager's head with a sickle in the village of Basha.
“This picture was taken in what is believed to be the last village in China where people are authorised by the government to keep guns. Another interesting tradition is that people in the town still use sickles to shave their hair, something that I was lucky enough to witness. The man holding the sickle was so good that the hair was done within a few minutes! I like this picture very much because it gives me a sense of genuineness, like an emotional hideaway from fast-developing modern society.”


My earliest memory of photography is having my first picture taken when I was ten years old. A commercial photographer came to my hometown and took a photo of me using a Chinese-made Eagle 4B camera. I was so excited and amazed by it.

Owning a camera became my greatest wish in the autumn of 1994. After working away from my hometown for over three years, I had come back to visit my family for the first time. During my visit I really wanted to have a picture taken with my grandmother, who was paralyzed and could not move from bed. My old schoolmate promised to lend me his camera, but for some reason it didn’t happen. My grandmother died three months later and I was very sad and also very regretful that I didn’t manage to get her picture.

In July of 1998 I spent eight month’s wages, about 2,700 yuan ($434), to buy a Japanese-made Minolta-700 film camera and I started my photography career.

I started sending my images to local media after getting familiar with my camera and luckily enough many of them were published, which gave me great motivation. In 2003, I was offered a job in Shenyang, Liaoning province to be a photojournalist at a city newspaper.

My first assignment as a photojournalist came when a street vendor got into an argument with another vendor and a neighbour, and ended the dispute by stabbing the neighbour to death and running away. I arrived at the scene with a text reporter after the body was carried off. Seeing a lot of blood and the murder weapon on the ground, I froze. I didn’t know what and how I could shoot. But I immediately called my supervisor for advice, and managed to finish my assignment.

After this experience photographing a homicide case I realised that as a photojournalist you should always keep a calm mind and sharp eyes when covering any kind of event, especially during breaking news.

I documented the lives of a group of beggars in Shenyang city in 2005, and that was the story that left the biggest mark on me. The beggars used to be farmers from Gansu province in western China but they were forced to leave their fields and lands because the living conditions were getting worse and worse. There were many small children with them and I felt deeply sorry for them, so I followed the group and took many pictures. After this story went public, the local government got involved and finally managed to put the children back in school.

I was very excited about a story I did recently about a college student called Fan Ling who lost his both arms in an accident when he was young. He didn’t give up on himself after all the misfortune. Instead, he was living a good life with only two limbs. I was deeply moved by his story and his great optimism.

I respect World Press Photo winner Lu Guang for his many in-depth stories about society, for example Aids in a Henan village and pollution in China.

Behind the Scenes

. Fuxin, China
Sheng Li stands on a pile of cole while taking pictures at an open-air coal mine in Fuxin, Liaoning province.