“Imagine a kind of life for yourself that can bring a smile to your face – that’s the moment I want to photograph.”
Your series, Liminal Space is a great example of portraying everyday queerness. What sort of an effect did this particular project have on your working methods?
I named that series Liminal Space because everything about it was constantly changing. Last year I had the chance to show these pictures in Times Square. For the occasion, I invited people who are in the photos to come and celebrate our presence together. Meeting them again was very interesting since some of these folks don’t look the same as in my photos anymore. It was like talking to people who all feel very familiar somehow.
I started Liminal Space in 2017, around the same time I was keen to find my community of queer people of color. A lot of these photos were taken in the process of me getting to know them and gradually becoming friends with them. There is a lot of love, a lot of gratitude in these pictures.
Liminal Space was very much about capturing a moment, but my process has become more intentional over the past years. I started to incorporate a lot more conversation, a lot more preparation before the actual shootings. I always ask people how they wanna be seen, what version of themselves are they trying to step into. Imagine a kind of life for yourself that can bring a smile to your face – that’s the moment I want to photograph.
I recently photographed a friend. When looking at the photos, she said to me that she’s having a crush on herself and that made me so happy. Frankly, we all deserve to have a crush on ourselves. As queer people, we were thaught from a very young age that we are not desirable. And even though now I know it’s bullshit, I can’t undo all the conditioning that I inherited from my family, friends, from school and workplaces. My body carries so much of the burden that I’m trying to unleash. And I’m really excited to work out a new path right now.
How has your upbringing in China influenced the way you handle people around you?
Chinese culture is my roots. No matter where I go, I will not let it go. It’s a very powerful ancestral connection. I grew up in a pretty traditional family in a time when China was going through crazy change. I was conditioned to be a good kid offline – respectful of my family and nice to people around me. I didn’t want to stand out, even though I knew a part of me just didn’t fit in. I had a completely different life online. I started using the internet when I was maybe nine or ten. It’s quite special, since my generation was the last one to have a completely offline childhood without technology involved and the first one to experience how the internet can open the doors to new worlds. I was living kind of a double life, the good child offline paired with a very curious and extensively emotional teenager exploring online.