Suspicion of Sex
Young Beijing photographer Ren Hang’s images of fetished bodies and mutant gestures forge a new taxonomy of corporeality.
A few years ago, the Chinese authorities cancelled an exhibition by young Beijing-based photographer Ren Hang. Officials cited “suspicion of sex” as the reasoning behind their censorial actions.
With this one draconian gesture, Hang joined a small group of Chinese contemporary artists (Ai WeiWei among them) to have been singled out by the authorities, and as a result, no Chinese photographic publishers have worked with him since. All of his books – which have garnered a serious level of attention – have either been self-published or released through overseas imprints.
The wider police and public reaction to his work has sometimes been more visceral than that of this simple act of censorship. He has been arrested a number of times while out shooting, and on the rare occasion that he has managed to show some of his less explicit images in his homeland, his work has been spat at and wilfully damaged.
This hasn’t held back the young photographer and poet though. Rather, his notoriety in China has only helped grow his reputation internationally and he is now a sought-after commodity. Born in 1987, Hang has published prolifically during his few years in the public eye, with his two most successful books to date being The brightest light runs too fast (Editions Bessard, 2014) and Wild (Die Nacht, 2015), which have both appeared on ‘best books of the year’ lists in notable publications in the United States and Europe. His images have also appeared in magazines like Capricious, Vice, Juxtapoz, Oyster and Time Out, and his ... Subscribe to read this article in full