Zongzhe Cai: Fantasia

Fantasia illustrates a magical world that is completely other and full of whimsy. This world reveals the landscape of our dreams and daydreams.

People often become enthralled in make-believe worlds because these worlds can give voice to the unheard, unspoken, and unseen dark underside of reality, which many people feel so profoundly but cannot articulate. It is only when light is shed onto the hidden imperfections of reality that we become aware of the immense beauty of the world we know. With the intention of bringing both beauty and pain to the forefront, I created this surreal world of fantasy with a variety of self-conflicting characters and sets that starkly display radically contrasting facets of reality. CGI builds on this realism created by traditional fashion photography to prompt the audience to look back at reality through otherworldly eyes.


Could you tell us about any current projects that you are working on?

Fantasia is a project that I’ve been working on recently. It combines portrait photography with CG technology, using traditional shooting techniques and 3D visual effects to convey a novel kind of photography.

 Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like its final outcome to be.

I am happy with the current status of my project—everything is going well so far. I hope that the final result will be presented as an exhibition. The print size of the photos will be 18x24in, because I want the details in each photo to be visible.

 How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?

 We are living in a world full of stress that induces emotional changes in people. Trying to recognize these changes could help us avoid triggering anxiety, detachment, and exhaustion to some extent. We need to understand that bitterness and sweetness are both part of life, and so are sadness and joy. Life is a process of experiencing, during which you can see innumerable beauties and horrors and feel countless delights and sorrows in your inner world. Therefore, I aspire to use this series of photographs to understand and offer help to people’s inner worlds.

Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?

My whole design is inspired by my favorite photographer, Momo Chen, a fashion photographer. He often applies CG technology to achieve his desired settings. In his works, you can see his criticism on industrial pollution and marine waste and his advocacy for environmental protection. He combines modern digital technologies with humanistic thinking to produce meaningful and enlightening works, which is the philosophy and mission of photography that I have always sought after. In addition, Tim Walker’s works serve as a source of inspiration for my shooting style.

Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.

The challenge I’m now facing is with portrait lighting: despite the fact that I photograph a lot of models, I still feel as though I’m not getting the creative lighting in photos that I’m looking for. I need to improve my skills in order to meet my needs. I require a great deal of inspiration throughout the majority of my creative process, and I believe the most effective way to overcome this obstacle is to browse and archive a large number of interesting and creative images. Collecting interesting photographs has been a daily habit for me, and this practice has aided my work in numerous instances.

Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?

To begin, I would suggest having a personal website and a photography Instagram account as these platforms serve as the primary means through which people learn about you and your work. Submitting your work to magazines and exhibitions is another technique to promote your work. Both of my job opportunities came from my work The Plant Kingdom, which is archived in the University’s Research Collection. Thus, my advice to other artists is to not feel bad about showing their work; it serves as a valuable platform for showcasing you and the fruits of your learning path. Your work is deserving of sharing.

Zongzhe Cai is a portrait photographer based in Toronto. His work spans five years and includes portraits, still life, and documentary. Zongzhe grew up in the Guangdong region of southern China. While studying photography at X University, he was fascinated by Western and Eastern art photography while exploring his cultural identity. He hopes that his work will blend Eastern and Western perspectives to tell stories, convey ideas, and express emotions.ere