When the Changchun-born and Beijing-based Ren Hang (1987) is asked whether his photos are intended to be erotic, he simply states: “Yes.” Little mystery remains about the nature of his risqué work: the Chinese photographer and poet likes to provoke! His honest and sexual photos include piles of naked people, boys kissing in the night, girls kissing in the daylight, fiery red lipstick and nail polish, an open vagina with a cigarette sticking out and an erect penis peeping out from behind a curtain.
But what does it mean when you portray a woman flaunting her spread legs from a balcony to the metropolis beneath her in a highly conservative Asian society? For Hang, it’s all about being direct; he is most fascinated by the realness of the body. We think we understand what he means, for the images he creates are simple, refreshing and often humorous. Even though he’s not trying to tell his viewers anything, his images deliberately challenge the conventional codes of morality in China.
It comes as no surprise that his explicit photography has made it difficult for Hang to find galleries in his homeland willing to show his work. And even though the internet has helped Hang reach his audience, in China his websites are still quickly shut down once he puts them up. This is by no means the case in the rest of the world, where other rules of censorship apply: his images have been widely exhibited and the artist’s work has appeared in leading international indie periodicals, such as Purple Fashion Magazine and Obsession Mag.
Hang is a true artist, a risk-taker and a hard worker. In the six years he’s been working, the extraordinary visual composer has published eight solo photography books with titles that speak to our imagination (think: My Depression, Son and Bitch and The Brightest Light Runs Too Fast). If only we could read his poems.