5Q2 - Xiaoxiao Xu

Why we should go to Den Haag – we talked to Xiaoxiao Xu, a photographer based in the Netherlands, in March 2021. In our format 5 questions to (5Q2), we talk to the artists of our Instagram takeovers about the work they show, their influences and upcoming plans.


Photographer Xiaoxiao Xu was born in southeastern Qingtian near Wenzhou and immigrated to the Netherlands when she was 14 years old. Spending half her life in the Netherlands changed her view on China. Her identity cannot be defined straightforward anymore; she is both an insider and an outsider. By photographing locations, people and objects that arouse confusing and alienating feelings she manages to find a balance between her origins and her present life. She graduated cum laude from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam in 2009 followed by a solo show in FotoMuseum Antwerpen and worked on personal projects since. In 2016 she published “Aeronautics in the Backyard”, a project that won numerous prestigious book awards over the last couple of years. Her latest book “Watering my horse by a spring at the foot of the Long Wall” was launched in May 2020.

Fototreff: Did you encounter a special challenge while working on the project you’re showing?

Xiaoxiao Xu: For the series Watering my horse, I remember me climbing a piece of dilapidated wall that has an almost 90-degree angle. That was exciting, because at one point I couldn’t go any further and I didn’t dare to get off anymore.

Fototreff: Is there a photographer or artist who influenced you in a particular way?

Xiaoxiao Xu: Michael Wolf’s work inspired me.

Fototreff: Which (photo) book should everybody own (or you would like to have?

Xiaoxiao Xu: A book that has been on my list for a long time is City of Darkness by Ian Lambot and Greg Girard. A unique record of life in Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, before its demolition in 1993.

Fototreff: Can you recommend an exhibition we should go and see right away?

Xiaoxiao Xu: Borealis – Life in the woods is now on show in Fotomuseum Den Haag. A project from photographer Jeroen Toirkens and journalist Jelle Brandt Corstius, they made a portrait of the northern forests on earth.

Fototreff: Have you started working on a new project? Any beans to spill?

Xiaoxiao Xu: I have ideas for several projects, including a project on India.