If Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls was a warts-and-all dissection of what it means to be a female millennial in America, Luo Yang’s 2018 photography series of the same name holds up a mirror to young women in China, breaking away from stereotypes and presumptions of femininity with unpolished images of subjects. Striking, raw and undeniably cool, Yang’s way with a lens has earned her praise from the likes of Ai Weiwei and attention far from her Shanghai studio.
For Girls, Yang shot Asian women, mostly born in the Eighties, over the course of a decade in settings where they felt most at ease, lending a sense of authenticity in an increasingly filtered and airbrushed world.
“The idea mostly came from my personal life,” she says. “I aimed for it to be a record of people I knew and what I saw on a daily basis. Their stories touched me and I thought it would’ve been such a pity to let those precious moments be forgotten in time.”
Her latest work, Youth, resulted from Yang travelling across Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan while documenting the complexities of a cohort of vastly different young people within Greater China. She had one broad theme in mind: the notion of identity, particularly within Generation Z—the demographic born between 1997 and 2012 who are noted for their self-awareness and acceptance of difference in others. “Gender fluidity is one of the important features of this generation, and I wanted to explore this. Upon self-reflection after Girls, I realised I had to be more objective in my craft and include all genders,” Yang says.
Yang’s interest in photography started as a hobby she adopted while studying at the prestigious Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in China’s Liaoning province of China in the early 2000s. “I borrowed a point-and-shoot camera from a friend to record people around me—mostly my roommates—but, more importantly, to release my emotions during adolescence,” she says.