Started as a passion project in 2008, Girls has become a career-making image series from Shanghai-based photographer Luo Yang. Her ongoing work upends stereotypes of Chinese hyper-femininity by capturing an emerging generation of young women defying expectations of their gender. Directed by British-Chinese producer Jean Liu, this film provides a rare glimpse into the photographer’s practice.
Liu follows Yang on shoots where she profiles real women in their homes across Shanghai. The candid discussions Yang has with her sitters about gender, identity and sexuality underpin the intimate, storied approach to her work.
“Luo Yang takes photographs of girls that I actually encounter in China everyday,” says the director. “In a country saturated with idealized images of the female face and form, Yang’s subjects stand in sharp contrast to the hyper-airbrushed, milky-complexioned girls presented in mainstream media.”
Yang’s bare-bodied models are characterized by their burns, bruises, buzz cuts and body hair. The images, which vibrate with a raw, lo-fi aesthetic, are carefully orchestrated scenes that—as the photographer describes—“capture the duality of female fragility and inner strength”.
Yang has exhibited in Hong Kong, Paris, Shanghai and Berlin and won the commendation of renowned artist Ai Weiwei, who christened her one of the “rising stars of Chinese photography”. This year marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Girls series as Yang traveled to Bangkok to extend her photographic study of womanhood to Thailand.