Perched on a stool with his torso exposed, Jiaqi begins tracing his lips with a tube of red lipstick. This careful and meticulous act swiftly goes off-piste, and it’s not long before we witness him smeared entirely in red. The performance-cum-self-portrait is an apt reflection of his fluid outlook, having acknowledged the constraints and artificiality of boundaries and categories, citing how they are often self-imposed. “When I first started to work as a photographer, I thought I needed to let everyone know I wasn’t only a fashion photographer, and that taking pictures could allow people to learn about different ways to view society, how to face problems in their life, and how to deal with their emotions,” he reveals.

“Taking pictures could allow people to learn about different ways to view society, how to face problems in their life, and how to deal with their emotions”

Jiaqi first appeared in the photographs of his former partner, the late photographer Ren Hang, and has since grown into his own voice — one that is reserved, passionate and radically tender, all at once. His rare gift for combining style with sensitivity deftly uncovers the raw disposition of the people in his photographs, revealing both their strengths and their vulnerabilities, acting almost like a mirror to his own being. “I was trying to break my own boundaries. Because before, I didn’t tell stories,” he explains. “I think for many Chinese people, they don’t really talk about themselves or their own problems, and I think some of them want to get help from other people. I’ve been there, so maybe that’s a gift I should be sharing with other people. If you know how to survive, why not teach others too?”

 

Performance • Huang Jiaqi – Producer • Xixi Nie – Film Director • Roni Shao – Assistant Director • Molyu – Director of photography • Gianpaolo Lapori – Colourist • Steve Atkins – Composer • Rob Martland – Art Director • Lok Yiu – Stylist • Avivi Wang – Hair Make-up • Yihao – Executive Producer • Kadri Mahmoud – Creative Director/Editor • Jim Demuth