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Five Asian photographers who are reimagining fantasy

In recent years, fashion photography has favoured of a more photo-realistic, if not ironic lense that is more documentary than fantasy. However, there is a new wave of photographers from Asia that are reimagining fantasy in a refreshing and relevant light whilst providing an insight to their culture. This is especially welcome right now at a time where we all need a little escape. 

Discover the list of photographers who will take you on a magical journey through their eye.

Erika Kamano

This London-based photographer explores the honesty of femininity and in turn, feminine sexuality. Erika Kamano uses colour and texture to capture her subjects and their personal narratives. Her scenes are homely and welcoming as if we’ve stumbled upon her subjects in the safety of their own bedrooms. She is able to snap an image at the perfect moment, instantly forming this connection with her audience. Her work emulates that of photos from a photo album, sifting through the pages as we recount childhood memories of family, friendship and freedom. Kamano plays with exposure to build these grainy, yet pellucid stories of the journey from girlhood into womanhood. Her work evokes this sense of nostalgia and cherishing the present. 

Toki

This Japanese duo is using their dreamy, hazy imagery to bring to light the world that is unseen. Yukari Manabe and Yoshihiro Saeki are the two photographers behind the name Toki, pairing up to explore their differing views on the fashion industry and how it’s visualized. Their work centres around a revolving theme of “opening the image to understand the depths of what Japanese people are like.” Through this motto, the audience is given an insight into the imagination and dreamworld of not just these two artists, but a whole community. With the deliberate use of light, shadow, refraction and exposure they are able to create these fantastical airy visuals. We are immediately drawn into the image through these techniques. We are placed into their dream world, where we are then forced to use our own imaginations to understand the hidden stories. The duo creates these moments of warped transparency, manipulation of light, to further enhance this motif of exposing the invisible. The work is saturated in glitter and sparkle, emitting a Kirakira effect that allows the photographers to “emphasize a sense of cleanliness.” Their collaboration with designer Sieran Tsuno, further explores the power of revealing the invisible is not just fashion and art, but in culture. 

Xiangyu Liu

The absurdity of Xiangyu Liu’s images is what makes his work so captivating. His attention to bizarre details and curation of surreal composition enables him to explore some intriguing narratives. This Chinese photographer draws inspiration from fellow artist Ren Hang, whilst distinguishing himself with his varying use of subject matter, focal points, orchestrated angles and control of colour. Xiangyu drops us into scenes from our childhood subconscious, appearing slightly terrifying at first, but as we begin to settle we start to see the humour. His odd depictions of life evoke a deep sense of love for the fun, in what can sometimes seem mundane. With a background studying fine art in Russia, it is clear these principles have heavily influenced his current work in photography. This unpredictably of Xiangyu’s is what gives him an edge within the fashion industry. His work defies the traditional fashion norms, they’re outrageous and comical, the antithesis of what we usually see in an editorial spread. With this unique ability to bring a sense of humour to a world so rigid and serious, Xiangyu has removed the barriers for other artists to embrace the spontaneity of their artistic expression. 

Zhang JiaCheng

Zhang JiaCheng is a Shanghai-based photographer creating romantic homages to his Chinese heritage and culture. With work predominantly fashion orientated, Zhang’s imagery is delicate and intimate, yet has this wild power to it. They are fierce in their angular shapes and contrasts of colour, whilst slender in their fluidity of movement. He captures these mesmerising moments, where his subjects have fallen into deep wells of emotion, that are trickling out into their bodies and onto their faces; surpassing the confines of the image. Zhang creates these nostalgic visuals, exploring the fragility of history and the importance of conserving past stories and experiences. His portraiture transcends the Western traditions of photography, creating an ambience where the Chinese narrative can be told. His use of Chinese iconography, Chinese contemporary aesthetics, and Chinese models who are “not only Chinese in appearance, but also in spirit,” prove his devotion to his culture. Zhang continues to reject European ideals, exposing the beauty in not just Chinese culture, but all underrepresented cultures. He is determined to continuously bring fresh ideas to the dialogue surrounding fashion photography and the need for a more diverse set of voices. 

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Zhong Lin

Zhong Lin is a Malaysian born, self-taught photographer who creates these surreal images as a means of further exploring herself and her art. Her use of bizarre angles, distorted figures and fierce vibrancy, allows her to delve into a rare and unique perspective; of the world and the individual. She manipulates the traditional rules of filmmaking by twisting and warping the contents of the image, in order to create this idiosyncratic world; one where the viewer, along with the subject, feel strangely at home. Lin has gained a large following globally, with fans being able to identify her work before she can. Although most of her art revolves around fashion, she ensures she is not adhering to the laws of the industry, always making sure it is her own and maintains its creative integrity. Her spontaneous lifestyle has created this mysterious air about her, which is clearly evident in all that she does. Lin’s undying curiosity of our weird, and at times mystifying world, allows her to continuously push the boundaries that hold so many of us back.

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