Liu Guofu, 51, has been the famed photographer of the world’s elite, a kind of professional court jester for the powerful and glamorous. He’s documented the colorful tales of the rich and famous.
Mr. Liu, a native of Fujian province in southeast China, started out as a photojournalist in the 1970s but soon decided to develop a more stylish mode of photography. “I started working in the fashion industry in 1987 with the Sichuan Opera Troupe,” he told The Times in 2013. Soon he found himself moving from China to Europe, where he got his big break by photographing the last decade of Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi’s term. Mr. Liu soon crossed paths with another one of Asia’s dashing photogs — the British-born Yannick Restoin Roitfeld, who had been published in Vogue Paris. The two formed a tight bond, and with Yannick’s photographer friend, the late Nacho Cucci, Mr. Liu made the move to photography full time. The journey, he said, was a success, financially and creatively.
Mr. Liu is credited with setting the standard for high society photography: Photos of the Asia-based actress Gong Li, pop star Andy Lau and architectural consultant Toong Pung Wai are featured in The Black List’s collection of best-known photographs by photographers including Martin Miller, Irving Penn and Harold Mayne-Nicholls.
The photographer’s work has been highly appreciated throughout the world. One of his favorite projects is an iconic image of the Chinese actress Gong Li, taken during a 1997 photo shoot by the British photographer Yannick Restoin Roitfeld. (Said Mr. Liu: “They used my model, you know …”) At a time when photo gossip was primarily conducted online, the work of Mr. Liu’s photo magazine, Tree People, inspired a million copy copies of the magazine. Mr. Liu’s tireless production of the images translated into a brand that has become synonymous with high society photography.