Kyle Obermann 很高興可以跟你在 The China Current 傾談。我們都身在香港，不過我知道你從德州來中國的時候，你還未成為一位自然生態保育攝影師。
Kyle Obermann, it's a great honour to have you here on The China Current. We are here in Hong Kong. But your story begins in Texas, long before you became an environmental and conservation photographer?
We used to joke growing up, if you dug a tunnel from Texas, you'd end up in China. It was the faraway place, you can't imagine. But when I got to college, that's when I started studying Mandarin. And from the moment I started studying, I thought it was so cool. It was like learning hieroglyphics. I thought it was alien. It was weird, but it was beautiful. It's one of those nerdy hobbies that just kind of spark in you.
You went to Peking University, which is like the Harvard, Yale of America. What was it like being an American on a Chinese campus?
It was pretty overwhelming and pretty amazing. But also, I think very, very humbling. I mean, the level of effort Chinese students do to get to these universities is so much more than we can imagine. And so, I was filled with this kind of sense of humbleness as well, being surrounded by these Chinese peers of mine, who were very, very smart and very, very dedicated. It also was very inspiring. I had this full-ride scholarship to the best school, which most Chinese people were very, very envious of. And so, I thought from that time on, I'm here not just to be here and learn the language, I'm here to how can make a difference. I saw language learning, not as just a grade but as a tool. I don't want to learn the language just to learn it. I want to learn it to be a tool to do good.
Why did you choose to stay after graduating? You were an environment major, but then you chose to plant new roots there.
When I was in Beijing, I just saw the miscommunication and the lack of holistic storytelling about China in the news. We see China as only big cities or only smog. That's what people think of and that's what I thought of. When I was in America learning Chinese, we did not learn about Chinese nature. My first break when I was in school there over Chinese national holiday, I took a car a couple hours outside of Beijing, I found myself in this paradise of fall colours and trees and forest and waterfalls. I was like, wait, why didn't this make the news? Why is the only smog and so I realized there's a story here that's not being told? And it's about one of the most important, one of the biggest countries in the world. And is this not an opportunity to tell that story and to share these amazing places with everyone else? How could I not stay? I had to.
There are North Chinese leopards living just a couple of hours outside of the capital, Beijing. But if you think about the story that you want to tell, the lived experience, what's the one idea that you would want to share with everyone back home?
If no one knows the fact that there are beautiful, pristine mountains a couple hours outside of Beijing where leopards are and could be, then we can't protect it. You can spread stories of smog all day, but if you don't spread the stories of the beautiful landscapes and the amazing wildlife, then you're wasting a lot of also potential stories. I think it shows a true picture of the diversity of China. People might see my photos and think, well, he's an explorer. He's an adventure look. But I will tell you this. Since the beginning of my career, even in Peking University, everything I've done has been with the help of Chinese people, whether it's meeting a professor, or getting a car ride to that mountain, or having an NGO bring me to a nature reserve and have the locals then bring me up the mountain. My photos are built-off the help of trying people, and in that way, I feel very indebted to them. And I say this, there will be forest rangers in China. They work for a couple hundred US dollars a month, and they're outside 25 days a month, risking their lives to protect things like the panda. So, I've got to ask myself, I have it much better-off than they do. And the least I can do then is do my absolute best, and just give my sweat and blood to show-off their stories.