20 for 20: Photographer & Actress Anaïs Martane

I said it once, and I’ll say it again: one of my favorite parts about Beijing is you never know who you’re going to meet, who you might meet, or how good the person you’re sitting with. is famous. of maybe. Such a chance encounter happened to me again, when I had the surprise opportunity to interview the charming, chic and elegant Anaïs Martane. Before Anaïs met her husband and the love of her life, movie star Liu Ye 刘 烨, her love, passion and expertise in photography led her to shoot for TIME, The world, ELLE China, and many other local and international publications. After meeting and starting a family, this couple continue to do even more amazing things, and their romance has long been a true fairy tale to friends, family and internet users.

Martane was born in Nice, France. Even though she started studying Chinese in France at the age of 14 and visited Beijing as a high school student, her official arrival in China was in 2001 to study at Peking Normal University. In addition to her love of Chinese culture and history, her Jewish heritage has also played a big part in her life and in what she chooses to get involved in. She has a vast knowledge of the history of Jewish immigrants who came to China and found peace, happiness and refuge here, and she says one of her lifelong missions is to raise awareness of the history of Jewish immigrants. in China.

When did you first come to Beijing? What brings you here?
I learned Chinese in high school as a third language, and last year our teacher organized a trip to Beijing in the winter of 1997.

What were your first impressions of the city?
Cold sky, immense, immense, and a smell of coal. For years, I didn’t know what that smell was, but I found out it was the smell of coal. There were all kinds of new very, very, very different smells.

I remember when we arrived from the airport, we drove to see Tiananmen Square. While driving there, I remember walking through parks early in the morning and seeing people in the square doing tai chi. All of this amazed me.

When our bus stopped at Tian’anmen Square, I just had tears in my eyes. I can not explain it. I felt the importance of the place and how lucky I was – a little provincial girl who can come to such an important and historic place in the world.

Did you imagine at the time that you would still be here 20 years later?
Never, haha.

Can you tell us about one of your most significant early experiences in the city?
When I came back as a foreign student in 2001, my time was much more free to discover more. I already knew I loved photography, so I started photographing the city. Everything that was traditional was my obsession: the Hutong neighborhoods of the destruction and reconstruction of the Dongsi, the parks, the plazas around the walls of the Forbidden City, the repair shops, the bookstores, the residential places where people visited. ‘always invited to come to their homes … This time was full of [discovery] for me.

What has changed the most since your arrival?
The attitude of the people. People were extremely friendly – not like now with their heads down [over their phones]. But this is a global change, not just Beijing.

How do you think Beijing has changed you as a person?
I arrived as a young adult and became an adult. I didn’t speak a word of English, and living with my Italian roommates, we spoke Chinese together. But thanks to an international life, to survive this time, we needed the Pekingese, which was all in English. Also, movies [were] in English, so I learned English like that.

What are your three favorite places in the city (other than your home)?
1. The Summer Palace, always and forever.
2. The ancestral imperial temple area, where I like to visit places like galleries, maybe have tea.
3. Number three I will leave a mystery for now as I search for new favorite cafes and bars where I can feel good and meet new people.

What advice would you give to relatively recent arrivals?
Prepare to use WeChat on a daily basis and maybe learn some Chinese before you come. Watch all of Zhang Yimou’s early films. Do not hesitate to taste the Chinese dishes. Be open to entering a whole new world.

Can you tell me a little more about what prompted you to get into the cinema and on stage?
I know that a lot of this love for art, film and photography was passed on to me from my parents, and I have always loved these things as well. When I first came to China, the amazing feelings I had and all the amazing people I met were different from what the Western media portrayed. [Western media] was way too critical. So it was a great inspiration. I wanted to try to better share the beautiful aspects of China that were often missing. I found a special peace in China and wanted to share it with the world.

Are you still doing what you came here for 20 years ago?
Absolutely not. But I’m still more or less the same person who came here first, in my mind. I have always stayed true to who I am.

READ: 20 for 20: Environmental lawyer and director Laurence J. Brahm

Images reproduced with the kind permission of Anaïs Martane

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