Ph.D. graduate Li Zhendong presents a special gift to ECNU


October 16th, 2022 witnessed not only the 71st anniversary of the founding of ECNU, but also the Annual Alumni Day. Let's get to know a special alumnus, Li Zhendong, a Ph.D. graduate in physical chemistry, who used his five-year campus life at ECNU to prepare a special gift to the university - The Light and Shadow in ECNU, which has recorded the beautiful campus in four seasons through the lens of his camera.

After having read this album featuring a clear timeline and rich content, we felt curious about the process of creating The Light and Shadow in ECNU and the story behind Li Zhendong: as a Ph.D. majoring in physical chemistry, how could he embark on the journey of photography? And what's the story behind those photos?

Li Zhendong admitted that he was not a "talented photographer". In order to take vibrant photos, he had to immerse himself in the campus to get familiar with every plant on campus, capture the light and shadow of different seasons, and try different angles of composition.

"I’m fond of taking photos in which ECNU is recognizable at first sight."

During his studies at ECNU, he once participated in the follow-up of many news activities in the campus. These photos are more than a simple record of those incidents and scenes, but can also arouse the participants’ common memories.

For example, in January 2020 when both domestic and foreign faculties and students gathered together to merrily celebrate New Year's Eve, there were no masks on anyone’s face, and all of us were immersed in the atmosphere of singing and chatting. The warmth in the cafeteria is palpable in the photo – as if it were passing through the paper to the palm of each viewer.

The graduation ceremony in 2020 was also of special significance. Graduates who had been delayed by the pandemic finally returned to campus in late May to complete their farewell to the alma mater. Li Zhendong used his camera to record the figures of his friends. The happiness of graduation and the sadness of departure are intertwined, injecting distinctive feelings into the photos.

In the summer vacation of 2021, Li Zhendong, along with his teachers, participated in the work of convening the International Congress on Mathematical Education at ECNU Putuo Campus. Due to jet lag, the filming lasted until early morning. "Although everyone was feeling very tired, the feeling of working side by side and cheering each other up is still very exciting whenever I recall it."

However, Li Zhendong's choice of the photographic perspective and his sense of beauty are not entirely naturalistic. During these years of "exploration" at ECNU, he has been constantly experiencing the natural scenery of the campus, bringing the scenery hidden in others’ eyes to everyone through The Light and Shadow in ECNU.

In October 2019, Li Zhendong rode a bicycle to visit all residential areas in the neighborhood of ECNU in order to record the lighting ceremony on the Anniversary Day near the Putuo Campus from a bird's-eye view. After making several adjustments, he found the best angle for shooting the lighting ceremony from the terrace of the highest storey of a residential building. "The neighborhoods nearby all have access controls, so I surreptitiously followed local residents inside. During the filming process, I found my way around by myself."

Looking at this album, we can feel his ingenuity. "Compared with other friends fond of shooting huge scenes, I prefer to film ECNU campuses," says he.

Before the album was officially finalized, Li Zhendong chose over 90 photos of ECNU that he was most satisfied with among thousands of photos. When conceiving the classification of these photos, he used the chronological order of spring, summer, autumn and winter as the reference, "but there is still a problem with this way of classification because some photos with fewer distinctive seasonal characteristics will be filtered out."

In June of this year, Li ended his five-year scientific research and officially bid farewell to his campus life. During his five years here, thanks to photography, he had chances to get connected with countless things and people that were unexpected before. The heavy stack of work permits symbolizes the best time of his youth, and will also guide his gaze on the world in the future.

Author: Yang Xu, Yi Yuxuan

Copy editor: Philip Nash

Editor: Wicky Xu, Cui Jizhen


East China Normal University