Behind the Camera: Lahem (拉黑) on capturing China’s post 80s and 90s generation

Lahem 拉黑 3

Lahem BioI first came across the introspective photography of Lahem (拉黑) (born 1984) on the Chinese street photography collective Zaijietou.com (meaning “in the street”). We finally met in 2010 at the Shanghai Photography Night run out of Dada Bar. I recalled him a shy but excitable man, and in the few times we’ve spoken over a dinner here, an exhibit there, I’ve grown to admire his passion, thoughtfulness and resolution for his craft. It could be his Chinese Literature background from Fudan University that compels him to delve philosophically about the nature and meaning of his work. Or his small town roots that highlight the contrast of his generation in China’s hyper urban society today.

There is no denying Lahem’s talent for photography and editorial insight. Widely published, including in Southern Window (南风窗), China’s leading commentary magazine, Lahem was selected in 2013 for the prestigious workshop run by photographer Ruan Yizhong (阮义忠), also known as “Taiwan’s Henri Cartier-Bresson“.

Website: http://lahem.net

海报

Currently, Lahem has an exhibit entitled《我们》or “Us” at Mogoo Café [Address:  No. 77 Fenyang Lu near Fuxing Lu / 汾阳路77号 近复兴路], running till the end of November.

Look past the timeless black and white portraits of his friends and you’ll notice most have their faces partially hidden from view, dressed in some kind of uniform, even a wedding dress, or hanging from a tree, as if to demonstrate their occupation (or is it preoccupation?). One can’t help but ask if you’re not supposed to see them fully as they are.

I asked Lahem about the motivations and message of  “Us” or 《我们》.

Lahem 拉黑 1

“《我们》这个系列是我一开始接触摄影就开始拍摄的照片。照片里面的人几乎都是我非常熟悉的朋友或者同学。照片也基本上在他们的生活环境或他们熟悉的环境里拍摄的。

I began the “Us” series around the same time when I started photography. The people photographed in the series are my good friends or classmates. I’ve basically captured them in their work place or some familiar environment.

我之所以拍摄这组照片是因为在很长的一段时间里,我自己感觉到迷茫,不管是对于以后要走的路还是以后要怎样的生活,我都无法确定。我希望可以通过观看以及拍摄同龄人的生活来更清楚地看自己的生活。通过拍摄这组照片,我发现我身边很多的人和我一样,他们也都迷茫,无奈。后来,我甚至觉得,或许我可以通过这组照片来展示我们这一代年轻人所在的生活状态,于是有了这次展览。

The reason I began this series is because for a very long time, I felt confused about the path in life I was supposed to take or the kind of life I wanted. I was very uncertain. I hoped that by capturing the lives of people my age, I would gain more clarity about my own life. Through this series, I realized that people around me were similarly confused and helpless. I thought that perhaps by exhibiting these photos, I could express our generation’s state of mind.

这个展览的第一张照片是我自己。那个时候我还在某事业单位上班,偶尔要穿正装上班。或许,对于大部分人来说,着正装并不意味着什么。但是对我来说,正装就像是某种身份的象征,代表着主流价值观里的成功。但这与极力追求自我的个性极不相符,甚至在某种程度上抹杀、扼杀了我的个性,让我和其他所有的人变得一样。

The first photo of the exhibit is of me. At that time, I was still (working and hence) in a suit. Maybe to most people, the formal attire does not really mean much. But to me, the suit was like a certain identity, a representation of success. But this aggressive pursuit (of perceived success) was incongruent with my personality, and to a degree, (this thinking) was murdering my personality, turning me into something similar to everyone else.

我要说的是,我们这一代年轻人的迷茫、无奈和这种象征”正装“的主流价值判断有极大的关系。我们出生于80年代或者90年代,我们大部分人已然明白自我和个性的重要性,但是这种觉醒的力量却还无法抵抗主流价值判断。因此,我们迷茫无奈,不知如何走后面的路。

I wanted to convey (through this series) the relationships between our generation’s blindness and materialism with the mainstream value of being defined by our “outfit” (what we wear). Though most of us born in the 1980s or 1990s understand the importance of our personalities, we can do nothing but follow the mainstream. Therefore, we become confused and have no idea about our future paths in life.

鲁迅说,真正的悲剧在于把美好的事物毁灭给人看。但人们只看到这句话,而忽略了身边悲剧的发生。我觉得我们这个时代真正的悲剧莫过于毁灭年轻人的梦想和追求自我的价值观。

Lu Xun said that real tragedy is when you destroy something beautiful for others to see. But people only see the meaning of the saying yet ignore all the tragedy around them. I feel that the greatest tragedy of my generation is the destruction of dreams and aspirations among young people as well as our values.

我一直希望我的作品能够一直贯穿批判和反思这两条主线。我希望我不仅仅只呈现年轻一代的迷茫和无奈,我希望可以引起同龄人的思考,不管是对自己还是对生活。

I’ve always hoped that my (photography) work would be able to lend itself through the dual paths of judgment and reflection. I hope my work does not solely reflect the younger generation’s confusion and helplessness but to raise awareness among people my age and reflect their individuality and lives.”

Lahem 拉黑 4 Lahem 拉黑 5

After attending his successful (and packed) exhibit launch, where I met many of Lahem’s friends who posed for his series, I asked him about their reactions to his work and his future projects.

SAT: How have your friends, the subjects of your photographed series, reacted to the project? Do they feel your exhibit sufficiently captures their diverse states of mind?

你的拍摄的对象,也就是你的朋友们对你的计划作何感想?你觉得你的作品能充分捕获并展现他们的内心想法吗?

LH: Most of my friends really liked my portraits of them. But to a certain extent, I did not fully reveal my true intentions of photographing their inner sanctum. To me, whatever I photograph stems from my inner selfishness, as opposed to revealing my subjects’ innermost feelings. What I really hope is to be able to showcase my feelings as well as how I view their views of the world.

我的朋友们大部分都比较喜欢我给他们拍摄的照片。但是在某种程度上,我并没有以真实地呈现他们的内心世界为我拍摄的主要目的,对我来说,我的所有拍摄都出自我私密的内心,相对于呈现拍摄对象的内心来说,我更希望可以如实地呈现我自己的内心,以及我对他们的看法对世界的看法。

Lahem 拉黑 2

SAT: You said to me that the process of shooting is selfish, that your subjects are really a reflection of yourself. I see you’re still photographing friends to continue the project, do you still think this is the case?

你曾告诉我拍摄的过程可以说是自私的,拍摄的对象其实也是对自我的一种映射。你现在仍以拍摄友人为主,是不是你仍旧持有这样的观点?

LH: In my next series “Classmates”, I would like to delve deeper into the lives of my friends and true perspectives on their lives. But it will not necessarily be in a purely documentary style because the truth is more complicated.

在我接下来的《同学》这个系列里,我想更多地、尽可能深入地呈现我朋友的真实生活真实想法,但我不会以纯纪实的方式来记录。因为真相是复杂的。

SAT: Share a little with us your other projects at the moment. They seem very focused on the young generation. Do you feel that is your niche by your sheer experiences?

此刻能和我们分享下你其他的展览作品吗?似乎你专注于拍摄年轻一代。这是不是因为你觉得自己比较适合和擅长记录这一类型呢?

LH: I am also exhibiting my work at the Lishui International Photography Festival from November 6 to 11, which is a curated workshop exhibition by Ms. Ren Yue (editor note: prominent photography commentator at Renmin University). This is also related to a book I am working on regarding my hometown and roots.

11月6-11日,丽水国际摄影节任悦老师策展了一个手工书的展览。我的《故乡书-走失》也在展览。这是一个关于我故乡以及我家族的书。

我拍摄年轻人并不是因为擅长,而是因为我觉得我和他们是同一代人,我对我自己有困惑,所以我观察他们,借此了解我自己。我觉得这也是摄影的魅力之一,它让我学到很多.

Lahem 拉黑 6

Lahem 拉黑 8

Visit Behind the Camera Interview Series to learn more about the work of other photographers.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

1 Comment

  • Reply November 21, 2013

    Adam Daniel Mezei

    There were indeed a couple of his responses that actually served as inspiration for a couple of things I was thinking about this morning…glad I happened across this today. and most importantly, the photo selection is positively stellar…something about those late ’80’s early ’90s snaps from the “opening up” period that always move me…

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.