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Popular TV actor Hu Ge finds new passion behind camera lens
Last Updated: 2016-06-16 07:37 | China Daily
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Hu Ge (left) is designated as "Visit Britain's Goodwill Ambassador for China" at the opening ceremony of the "Amazing Shanghai" campaign in London on Monday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Hu Ge is no stranger to cameras.

The popular actor has starred in more than 14 TV series and two movies. Now the 34-year-old, who also released three albums during the past two years, has discovered a new role - behind the camera.

Hu's photographs, featuring his home city, Shanghai, in East China, are being displayed at an exhibition in London through Saturday.

As Shanghai's tourism ambassador and a passionate amateur photographer, Hu was invited to take part in the Home-Town exhibition at London's Alfred Dunhill Bourdon House. It is one of a series of initiatives to promote the image of Shanghai, London's sister city.

Hu is one of the most popular stars in China with more than 48 million followers on China's Sina Weibo social network. He is also among the highest-paid stars in the country. Last year, his three TV series attracted more than 19 billion online clicks.

He is reported to have signed up for more than 30 advertisement campaigns in 2015 with a total endorsement fee of more than 200 million yuan ($30 million).

The exhibition showcases artworks from invited artists from China and abroad. To capture some panoramic views of the city, Hu climbed to the top of Shanghai Tower, more than 600 meters above the ground.

"The weather was not ideal and the tower was still under construction," says Hu. "But I was very glad to capture a moment of Shanghai's development process."

Hu was appointed as the tourism ambassador of Shanghai in January.

"As a Shanghai native, I feel very lucky and honored to be the ambassador. I love the city and it is an opportunity for me to further understand my hometown," Hu tells China Daily. "It also means responsibility since I am not only representing myself but also the city."

It has long been a tradition for Shanghai to polish its brand with the help of celebrities from various fields. Former NBA star Yao Ming and Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang, both Shanghai natives, have been the city's faces before.

"If Yao Ming (2.29 meters tall) is Shanghai's height (gaodu in Chinese) and Liu Xiang is Shanghai's speed (sudu in Chinese), then I am Shanghai's Baidu (the top search engine in China)," Hu quips.

"So while in Shanghai we do have the picturesque Bund - a living example of British and Western architecture - and top-class restaurants and leisure, we also have the old town with Shanghai-style Shikumen houses adorned with beautiful stone arches, and many interesting alleyways full of arts and culture that make my hometown dynamic," Hu says.

Chen Jingxi, deputy director of the Shanghai Information Office, says Hu was appointed as the city's ambassador for being an example of "positive energy".

Born in Shanghai's Xuhui district in 1982, he was admitted to the Shanghai Theater Academy in 2001 and immediately skyrocketed to stardom in 2005 after playing the lead actor in Chinese Paladin, a TV series based on a popular role-playing game of the same name.

However, a year later, Hu suffered a severe injury and disfigurement in a car accident, which killed his assistant. It took him about one year to recover and return to the industry.

In 2015, Hu had another career boost thanks to the mega-hit TV dramaNirvana in Fire. He won many awards at home and abroad for this role, among which is the Magnolia Award for best actor at the 22nd Shanghai TV Festival.

The TV series has been exported to many countries, including South Korea and Japan.

When asked about the possibility of cooperating with foreign directors, he jokingly says that he wishes to have such opportunities but needs to improve his English first.

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