Qingdao, China, north of Shanghai, is a city of over 2.7 million people. Every morning, local swimmers gather at Qingdao’s downtown beach. Philipp Engelhorn brought his camera to the beach every day for a week to document their stylish attire. The homemade “funky” outfits are colorful, patterned and mismatched, but they also serve a purpose. “They are protecting themselves from the sun (as they do not want to get suntan) and from jellyfish stings,” Engelhorn told PDN via email.
Engelhorn used natural light for the series, shooting each portrait between 5:45 am and 8:00 am. “I was trying to shoot this as consistently as possible, without a whole studio set. The Chinese are very shy in front of the camera, and I would have never gotten these relaxed postures and attitudes with a full studio set-up.”
Inspired by a photo of one of the swimmers in a Chinese newspaper, Engelhorn thought this project would be a good way to try something new. Much of the Hong Kong-based photographer’s work is reportage. “Personal projects always work the best, are the most fun, bring the best PR,” he notes. “Working on assignments and jobs for too long can really kill or destroy your creativity. I think it is very important to go out and do projects to find yourself in your own photography once in a while.”
The series recently won Engelhorn second place in the 2015 LensCulture Portrait Awards.