Ziyi Le: New Comer

Ziyi Le: New Comer

Personal feelings of emptiness and self-doubt were the starting point for the Chinese photographer’s sensitive portrait series. Using Weibo, a Twitter-like portal for short messages in China, Ziyi Le found the protagonists for his series – and, in doing so, captured pictures reflecting a whole generation’s state of mind.

There are many ways to deal with negative feelings. One of them is to look for and find kindred spirits. Chinese photographer Ziyi Le went a step further – he photographed those kindred spirits. “Throughout my growing up years, I spent little time with my parents,” he remembers. “We communicated little and were estranged for a long time, which made me feel like I was in the middle of nowhere. Every time I was confronted with family issues, I instinctively wanted to avoid them.” In March of 2020 he moved to Hangzhou for a new professional start; very quickly, however, the routineness of his work turned it into a nightmare for the young photographer. He decided to explore the spiritual emptiness and alienation he was increasingly feeling, and put out an appeal on Weibo, a Twitter-like portal in China. Over 40 young people responded, so Le set to work with his camera. How can you capture feelings in pictures? What does a face say about a person’s emotional state? And, are there really feelings that unite and move a whole generation? “Photography acts as an intermediary between me and the subjects in my works. Shooting interactions may have the same resonance for me as for them. It’s through these images that I aim to convey this state to viewers, especially the personal, private, and emotional aspects that often go unnoticed,” Le says, explaining his intention.

“In this age of swift population mobility, people are increasingly leaving their hometowns. I use the term New Comer to refer to this group of people, including myself.”

A thoughtful young man looking out a window; a young couple embracing as they seem to give each other support; a lost expression on a screen – they all share a certain heaviness and lack of direction, which surfaces time and again in these tender portraits. In many cases, the isolation resulting from the Corona pandemic strengthened such feelings: young people feared for their jobs or feared unemployment; part of the time they were confined to their apartments or houses. “I could clearly sense an invisible shadow enveloping most people,” Le recalls. And the shadows remain. A whole generation is dealing with existential fears, questions about the future, and the search for identity. Le found his own way to bring these questions out into the open and to make them visible – maybe even to start a conversation about the issue. “Even if I don’t have much in common with most of them, I am touched by each one of them: their readiness to evolve, and their attempt to find redemption in a positive or negative way,” he says.

Le’s project was proposed by Ghu Zheng, who was among this year’s international LOBA nominators.

Ziyi Le

Ziyi Le was born in Fujian, China, in 1993. In 2017, he graduated in Fashion Design from the Minnan Institute of Technology in China. In 2018, he self-published his photo book “Well Forever” (长寿水井) and, in 2019, had a solo exhibition at the Banshan Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. Le lives today in Yunnan, in the south-west of China.

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Portrait © Ziyi Le