Case Studies: Dinu Li

“Anywhere you go, you will usually find some creative potential. It is then a question if there is a will to discover it, nurture it and sustain it.

Born in Hong Kong, Dinu Li is a UK-based artist living in Old Trafford. Working with photography and the moving image, he has exhibited his work internationally. Dinu produced ‘The Mother of All Journeys’, which was short-listed for The Sunday Times as one of the Top 10 Photography Books and also the Recontres d’Arles Contemporary Photography Book Prize.

What single event, in your life, prompted your passion to work within the arts?

“Many years ago, an ex-girlfriend dragged me in a bookshop, so I could accompany her, whilst she was researching. Out of sheer boredom, I started wandering around the various departments and randomly stopped at the art section. I happened to stop at a bookshelf full of photography books, under the surname beginning with the letter ‘K’. Without thinking, I grabbed two books, one by Chris Killip and the other, by Josef Koudelka. This marked the turning point in my life and from there I immersed myself in photography along with ‘art house’ cinema. Up until that encounter, I hadn’t paid much attention to art”.

What do you find inspires you in your creations and stimulates your creativity?

“Inspiration can come from an array of sources. It could be a conversation I overhear on a bus journey, or a news item discovered whilst researching something else online. It could be a particular note from a musical score, or a private message on the back of an old discarded postcard. Currently, I am obsessed with a book published in 1947 by the author Ayn Rand called The Fountainhead. Although the story centres on an architect and his unique vision, the underlying theme interrogates the chasm between social conventions and boundless creativity”.

What is your experience as an artist living and working in Trafford?

“Anywhere you go, you will usually find some creative potential. It is then a question if there is a will to discover it, nurture it, invest in it and to sustain it.

I know the area inside out, and although I’ve lived in other places and cities in my life, I do have a base in Trafford. Because I’m part of the fabric of Trafford, I stand too close to it, to know if it has a direct link to my work. What I can say is that I can be walking in my neighbourhood and be called ‘Brother’ by people I have never met; or I can pick up a tomato at my local corner shop and get 10 different ideas on how to make a meal with it. I guess all these day-to-day experiences must influence me somehow, and in the process of personal growth, I must view the world in a particular way and therefore make my work in a particular way too”.

How has your work been acknowledged and celebrated?

“I produced ‘The Mother of All Journeys’ in 2007. In that year, it was short-listed twice in two international art book prizes in France and Spain. The Sunday Times also selected it as one of the ten best photography books in 2007. Incidentally, some aspects of the book show images of Trafford”.

What future projects do you have in the creative pipeline?

“Project-wise I’m working on a sculpture, which involves a slide projection, several flat sheets of clear acrylic and one thousand pieces of jigsaw. Hopefully, I will be able to put all those pieces of jigsaw together!

I’m also preparing for several international exhibitions, including Switzerland, Sweden and China this year and Berlin next spring. The Berlin exhibition is particularly challenging, as I have been offered three large rooms to work with. I will have to throw everything at them and hope it’s enough to fill such big spaces”.

For more information about Dinu Li, his work and future projects see

‘The Mother of All Journeys’ is published by Dewi Lewis Publishing.