"Peaceful, gentle but powerful. That’s the thing i want to show to audience."
Born in a coastal city in China, Eva learnt photography on the Internet. She began to convey her emotions through her photos and her photographs are a reflection of her observation of people and things. We spoke to her about her documentary project, In The Mist - an observational documentation of the life status of Chinese queers. The project is an ongoing one which Eva hopes to continue now that she has graduated.
What is your background in photography?
I don't have a very special background in photography. I learn the photography knowledge on the internet. I remember the first time I had my own camera I was in high school.Maybe I began to like to convey my emotions through photos from that time. I studied lacquer art as an undergraduate, and after four years of lacquer painting and lacquer sculpture, I kind of wanted to try something new for myself. I am passionate about observing people and things in life, recording and expressing my views with the lens.
I think the foundation of painting and fine art is also helpful for my photography. I will pay more attention to whether the colors of photos are harmonious.
In The Mist
Being non-binary and Chinese means that the queer has to have a fluid identity - flexible, fluid and complex. It has to endure social discrimination, resist censorship by public authorities and perform a character that is not its true self, as well as wearing a variety of masks.
As Chinese queer, our identity has always been framed by a sense of fear and defiance. During these decades, the cultural environment in China has undergone considerable change.
The Chinese government's repressive attitude towards sexual minorities, combined with the frequent incidents of gender violence in recent years and the destruction of basic social trust, has left the Chinese queer community in a state of collective psychological trauma.
So I wanna trying to present their entanglement and struggle with family and society,and how the queers are facing the increasingly tightening, regressive cultural environment in China and how the Chinese queer community has played a role in the individual's struggle to find their identity.
I hope my project could tell the stories and give some active power to queer who growing up in the Chinese cultural environment have been searching to find themselves and trying to seize ownership of their own bodies. Although the acceptability of the queer group among Chinese young people is growing, we need to keep our guard up. Our current political atmosphere has clearly shown how equality and progression have been prevented, or even seriously regressed.
Who are the subjects in the photos?
In this project, I photographed several Chinese queer with different identities. I met them on the internet and this is first time i spend a long time to know more about strangers. Students, business people, queer artists, actors, and boxer, with different cultural backgrounds, classes, family situations, and social identities, have different views on gender awareness, self-identity, the Chinese government's tightening censorship, and the queer community.
But almost all of them have experienced the tearing apart of the individual from his or her family and society. It seems that being in a foreign country or being separated from their relationships, torn and cut off from their families, has become a necessary path for most homosexuals in this particular context in Chinese society.
What was your experience like meeting the subjects in your photos?
I remember feeling a sense of sadness and mixed emotions when one of my subjects (an actor) told me that he liked acting because he always played a heterosexual male in front of his family. There are times when we feel lost and difficult, and when we don't know what to do, we choose to rationalize those hardships, or even fall in love with them. When I shoot, I don't ask my subjects to do a certain action. I talk to them first. We would spend a lot of time together, getting to know each other's growing stories. After we get closer, the portrait is taken in the subject's home.
What was your favourite photo from this project and why?
I think it's the detail photo of the red high heel with a little bit of a sports sock sticking out.
I took this photo by accident when my subject and I had finished shooting for the day and he was hurriedly digging through a pile of boys' clothes to find these high red heels. He was getting ready to go to a party. I looked at him with his sports socks on and ready to put them on. I think this picture is interesting because it's a switch between two different states. In this picture, you can see that the image represented by the red high heels is what he is after, while the masculine sports socks that he always wears in his daily life are hidden under these exaggerated boots. It's a state switch that's part of his real life.
If you could associate one song with this project, what song would it be?
I think may be I will choose a Lou Reed’ s song “Walk on the wild side. It's actually an interesting story. At my exhibition, an audience of my work told me online, "When I look at your photos, my mind always thinks of this song, the lyrics and melody of this song are very match with your work." I went to listen to it, and I really felt quite suitable. Listening to this song, I can probably think of a picture of a queer who has just had a big quarrel with their family.They feels exhausted and tired to get rid of the secular eyes. They walks aimlessly in the night with a little grievance but still hopes that they can firmly walk on the road they wants to go.
How would you describe your photographic works?
Peaceful, gentle but powerful. That’s the thing i want to show to audience.
What influences your photographic works?
Nan Goldin. The portraits she shot have a sense of narrative, and the power of picture transmission is strong. She must have won the full trust of the subjects. The people under her lens present a relaxed and unrestrained sense of reality.
What are you up to these days? Any new projects in the works?
I'm on a long graduation trip, and I'm planning to return to my hometown in the summer to work on a project about identity and feminism, which is a story about a particular group of women in my hometown haha.