Show Hide image

Generation next: a photo essay

Four rising stars of Chinese photography give a glimpse into the country's youth culture and fashion scene.

Zhe Chen

Zhe Chen is an artist based between Los Angeles and China

As a photographer, I cannot represent (and I am not willing to represent) anybody else. In the same way, neither can I be represented (nor am I willing to be represented) by others. I hope to express in my work the undeniably powerful connectedness that reminds viewers that we are all, in one way or another, connected to each other in our deepest emotions. This kind of connectedness should not be related to age. I hope a first glance at my works conveys the idea of secrecy and sentiments, under which lies information awaiting exposure and recognition: like an index page pointing towards all unanswered and growing questions of life.


223 (Lin Zhipeng)

Lin Zhipeng was born in Guangdong and is a photographer and writer now based in Beijing

Internet users have always had a thirst for novelty and an interest in sharing the lifestyle of young people. The photographs I’ve taken of the lives of Chinese youth are like that, mainly disseminated and shared online. The youth culture that is the subject of the photographs seems to be that of a minority, marginalised, even to the point of the bizarre, breaking away from the mainstream (often referred to as “guai ka” online). The young people that I knew and photographed, from 2004 to today, are all growing up. Photographing youth is not just a wilful act. I would most like to continue photographing my own development, as well as the changes in feelings and experiences around me. Maybe ten or 20 years later, when I’m middle-aged, with the young people once in front of the camera also ageing, our thoughts will no longer be so wild and restless. Maybe we’ll be more calm and at peace, and the subject of the photograph will probably also change along with it. When youth are young no more, the images are no longer intense.


Luo Yang

Luo Yang was born in the 1980s. She is a cutting-edge photographer who lives in Beijing

The images in Girls come from the process of growing up, and are of myself and other girls. In order to shake off the gloom and loneliness of growing up, the attempt is to gain consolation through the images. The pictures are both private and non-private. The girls’ world is confined by their age. As soon as they leave it, it is difficult to return. In life, they are weak and vulnerable, and at the same time persistent and decisive. They are full of hope but also concealing crises. The realities in these girl’s lives are slowly changing. I hope that their lives and this series of images will move into the wider world. They will delay the process by which girls become women.


Ren Hang

Ren Hang is a countercultural photographer based in Beijing

I think I have a typical life, like any other ordinary person. The subjects of my photography also have typical lives, no different from anyone else.


[All photography courtesy of the artists and Ai Weiwei]

This article first appeared in the 22 October 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Ai Weiwei guest-edit