Provocative images of the 28-year-old Beijing photographer are constantly challenging conventional codes of morality in a still highly conservative society, proving that eroticism also exists in China, just like anywhere else in the world.

Sexuality, freedom, intimacy, and China are the underlying themes throughout all Ren Hang’s works. There are moody, apocalyptic images of models – his friends, fans, and even his mom – naked in nearly every single one of his photos, often outdoors, high in the trees or on the terrifyingly vertiginous rooftops of Beijing (basically, whatever enters his mind at the moment). Hang’s works are kaleidoscopic configurations of human flesh with props ranging from animals and children’s toys to fish tank and bodily fluids – all in tense, flash-lit, dead-pan compositions that in any case will not leave you indifferent.

Ren Hang: A Look At Eroticism

Ren Hang: A Look At Eroticism

Ren Hang was born in Changchun, China, in 1987. The up-and-coming photographer first started shooting back in 2008 when he was studying advertising in college which soon found quite boring. Inspired by Shūji Terayama, a sculptor, filmmaker, poet, and dramatist, Hang shot whatever he saw, even if it was mostly his roomie’s naked body. In fact, this was probably the beginning of his fascination with nudity.

At first, the artist without any art school education behind him just showed his work online, shooting on simple automatic film camera that cost him about $16 in US dollars. Now, eight years later, Hang has quite the list of accomplishments, still taking pictures using a traditional camera, without any form of post-production or the benefit of a lighting umbrella and a team. His photographs, have been the subject of over a hundred solo and group exhibitions in almost every major city, including Paris and New York. He has several self-published books, in tiny print runs, that now sell for up to $ 600. Hang also shoot Mika for BAZAAR ART China Magazine, and has recently made pictures for Harper’s BAZAAR China. His fans actively follow his website and Instagram (more than 148K followers), Facebook, and Flickr accounts.

This month Ren Hang published his new book REN HANG, the first international collection, covering his entire career, with well-loved favourites and images from the artist’s personal archive. Here is little spoiler provided by book’s editor Dian Hanson: “The design of the book was primarily for aesthetics, but also chronological, with Ren’s earliest works towards the beginning. After that, there is a grouping of like images, interrupted by jarring and surprising images, with blank pages interspersed to draw attention to particularly strong images.” The 312 pages’ book in two multilingual editions is already available for purchase in stores around the world.

Ren Hang: Taschen

Ren Hang: Taschen

Ren Hang: Taschen

It’s important to note that in spite of Hang’s international success, most of his photos are forbidden in his home country. This is a delicate subject in China, where nudity remains taboo and is often associated with pornography. He’s been arrested a couple times, his cameras have been confiscated, his photos have been spat on in galleries. Bus still the artist prefers to remain in the country he most familiar with. “I love China and I like shooting Chinese people. I was born here and I feel a big connection with my hometown. True, I’m restricted here, but the more I’m limited by my country, the more I want my country to take me in and accept me for who I am and what I do,” states Hang.

Ren Hang

Ren Hang

Despite his impudent works, Ren Hang remains short-spoken and media shy.  His interview answers usually don’t exceed a couple of words: “I don’t know”, “Kind of”, “Yeah”, “Mhmm”, “I don’t care”, and so on. Hard to say whether Hang is really that indifferent or just tries to create intriguing and controversial image. Leastwise, his taciturnity doesn’t hinder the work to speak for itself. Since the artist offers practically zero insight into the motives behind his pictures, his work yields to endless interpretation. The photographs mean whatever you want them to mean, and you are actually never wrong. And perhaps that’s the beauty of it. His works are as easy or as complex as you want them to be, which can be considered liberating in and of itself.

“I don’t try to get a message across, I don’t give my works names, I don’t date them. I don’t want to instil them with any vocabulary. I don’t like to explain my photos or work as a whole. I never ask people what they think of my photos or what they feel. I don’t care, in fact.”

Ren Hang

Well, that’s Ren Hang. He simply doesn’t give a damn. Whether you choose to pay attention to his work or not is completely up to you. This promising photographer will be shooting regardless any outside force, opinion, or criticism.  For Hang, there’s no statement to be made, in his world, nudity and nature go hand-in-hand and that’s all there is to it.

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