Interview by Julian Lucas | Kathleen Graulty 2016
Breaking down stereotypes with provocative imagery, Chinese photographer Luo Yang records powerful images of GIRLS, a photographic series of Chinese women. In these images, Luo challenges the perceptions of how the Chinese woman is portrayed. GIRLS re-defines this by investigating sexuality, body image, and liberation.
Later on, when I photographed the girls and more and more people saw and liked these pictures, I realized that these girls brought comfort and encouragement to them. I realized the power of the “girls".
What subjects appealed to you when you began photography?
I was very much into images and movies from an early age. I was often very touched by the things happening around me. I still remember a scene from a movie, in which a woman was sitting alone on one of those rows of empty benches in a big hall, crying. Her crying was so silent ... I was shocked! I don't even remember the movie, but that scene somehow stuck deeply in my mind. I could feel that there was a desire growing inside of me, that I needed to record those touching moments, especially for girls, girls like me, like my friends or my classmates. I needed to catch those sensitive, fragile and confusing emotions. They were part of our life, our youth, they truly existed. One day, I borrowed a camera from my classmate. That was the start and it has never ended since.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to present the new generation of Chinese women and challenge the stereotypes through your images?
At the very beginning when I started photographing, I didn’t think that much; it was more about channeling and expressing my own emotions and confusions. Later on, when I photographed the girls and more and more people saw and liked these pictures, I realized that these girls brought comfort and encouragement to them. I realized the power of the “girls”. I hoped the images could show more about the real lives of the girls and their true thoughts inside. Now, yes, I feel the sense of responsibility.
When viewing your photos there is a feeling of liberation, yet the girls present a sense of confidence and boldness. What are your feelings during or after photographing them?
Every shooting is a process of liberation to me and to the models as well, we feel excited and released. We all very much enjoy this moment, a moment of complete ego.
Where does your inspiration come from? Is there a driving force that encourages you to go out and photograph?
My inspiration comes from my own feelings in face of this world. When I sense similar emotions in my girl friends, I know I need to photograph them. Time passes by quickly, I need to save those beautiful moments before the society and the world do any change to these lovely girls.
Most of your images are in color, is there a specific reason for this?
The world is colourful and the girls are colourful too, why should I photograph them in monochrome or black and white?
How many cameras do you use while taking pictures?
generally use two cameras, a 120 medium format film camera, and an auto focus camera.
Were there any stories the girls told you that you felt was important? Care to share?
There are lots of stories and details, of course, that’s why I’m thinking of doing a video work which could “record” all these stories…please wait for my next artwork ;)
What’s next for Luo Yang?
I will continue with female images. I am thinking of focusing on the subject of “mothers”. I took a lot of pictures of young girls, but when the girls and I talked about our mothers, their stories were always so touching. When we were little, in the1980’s, mothers in China went through incredibly hard times, but nobody ever took note of that. The age/time of our mothers will pass in a near future, it would be a pity to not document their lives.
What is your favorite photo book?
没有最喜欢的吧，很多关于女性艺术家的书和画册我都很喜欢，比如 Sophie Calle，Rineke Dijkstra，Marina Abramović。
It is hard to say which one is my favourite. I like many books, but especially photo books which are by female artists, like Sophie Calle，Rineke Dijkstra or Marina Abramović.