Lao Xie Xies likes the unfiltered. His photos are provocative and playful, daring and direct – acts of creative freedom in a not so free society. His photographs are filled with young flesh, dirty and romantic scenes of Chinese city. We sat down with the Shanghai based photographer to talk about creative techniques, the power of the human body and the legacy of Ren Hang.

“My name is Lao Xie Xie. For reasons regarding the safety of my life in China, I like to keep my true identity hidden. Let’s say I’m just a human being who likes to express his vision of the world through the lens of an Olympus camera.

I live in Shanghai. Six months ago, one of my closest friends gave me an old camera as a present. After a few bad photo-shoots and street photography trials, I simply started to execute what was on my mind. Just like a painter draws on his canvas: First, I have a rough idea in my head, merely a sketch. Then, when I meet the model or see the location, I let myself be inspired by the moment. My work is always a mix of thoughtful preparation and improvisation on the spot.

This is a photo that reminds me, how important it is to follow your spirit: I was shooting this female couple all day and at one point they had this intimate moment in front of the camera. And I was able to capture it.

The human body is transmitting a really strong visual power. Embodied by the concept of the ‘muse’ it transcends the magic of space and time throughout all art history. Think about Canova’s masterpieces, they are still as powerful as they were when they were sculpted a long time ago.

Chinese elements are something that I also consider visually very powerful. Of course I want to incorporate them into my work. But each medium has a different language, and their strong aesthetic fits better into some pictures than into others.

I never use digital cameras for my own work, and I don’t think I will ever be a technically versed photographer. I don’t know much about iso, lights, lenses and all this stuff. I mainly use the camera as a tool to actualize what I have in mind, nothing more. For sure, the analog camera has more magic to it, you don’t see what you shoot and sometimes you totally forget what you did until you see the pictures finally develop… The feeling you get is also very nostalgic and romantic in some way 🙂

If you ask me, Ren Hang was one of the greatest Chinese artists and he left a lasting influence for future generations. Every upcoming new artist in China needs to thank him.You can see something common between our styles, but if you look more closely you can also see a big difference. He was more poetic and surreal, while I am more direct and ‘punk’.

During the corona-quarantine, I decided to bring some order into my archives and take some time to develop new ideas. Now that the crisis is over in China it is time to be more productive. So stay tuned guys, new shit is coming soon:) “

More intimate improvisation photos, follow Lao Xie Xie on Instagram.

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