Luo Yang is Capturing What It’s Like to Be a Young Person in China

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Luo Yang’s new series New Generation Moonduckling
From the series New Generation© Luo Yang

A follow-up to her 2018 series GIRLS, Luo Yang’s latest work, New Generation, is a document of the young people she encounters in her home country of China

Luo Yang has an eye for the imperfect beauty of her generation. Her 2018 multi-city exhibition, GIRLS, cemented Yang as a prominent figure in the new wave of Chinese photography and a documentarian of her native country’s ever-changing social structures. In Yang’s words, GIRLS was a “decade-long photographic exploration of women born in the 1980s” in which the 35-year-old artist saw herself reflected. Now, Yang’s intimate lens is reaching beyond the confines of subjectivity – as her latest series, New Generation, attests. “With this body of work, I tried to be more objective,” she explains. “I didn’t want to only photograph girls, but also boys, gender-fluid and transgender people – most of them born in the 1990s or 2000s.”

The idea first came about two years ago, when Yang started to become aware of how fast China’s social landscape was changing, noting the ever-growing possibilities that came with those changes. In the process, the photographer took on the challenging task of detaching her camera from her own sensibility, in a quest for authenticity. “I didn’t want my personal emotions to come through in this project, but rather present people as they are, with total honesty,” continues Yang. “Some of my subjects are friends of friends, but many are also strangers I bump into on the street. Ultimately, I want to create a visual recording of the lives of young people today.”

New Generation, which will be released both as an upcoming exhibition and a publication, manifests Yang’s desire to immortalise human emotions at a given time. “There are so many beautiful moments in people’s lives that will never be reproduced or replicated,” says the photographer. “They deserve to be recorded; otherwise, all of these moments will just be lost and forgotten in time.” Stripped from any political message, yet with the subtle aim of showing the world an image of China which diverts from stereotypes, New Generation primarily appeals to the emotional sensibility of the viewer, as a celebration of the courage and freedom to be yourself.

“China is changing so fast, and people nowadays are incredibly open,” asserts Yang. “When I look at my subjects, I see pioneers: people who are independent, free and brave enough to not just see the changes happening, but embody it themselves.” Freedom and the desire for self-expression, Yang believes, is a universal language – one which her spontaneous, vulnerable and at times humorous portraiture never fails to convey. “My goal is to be a recorder of the present, with all its facets,” concludes Yang. “I’d like to record things that touch me, just as they are. All I can hope for, is that people can feel just as touched when looking at my work.”