Ren Hang – Remembering a great photographer


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On 23 February 2017 the sad news of Ren Hang’s death was published in many different art magazines and newspapers. The Chinese photographer, who with his emotional, special and highly aesthetic analogue photographs counts among the most prominent representatives of the new, word-renowned generation of photographers, died at the early age of 29.

Photography wasn’t the only passion in his life though, as he also dedicated himself to lyrics a lot. When doctors diagnosed him with a clinical depression, he tried to cope with it in a literary way by writing “My Depression”.

Ren Hang was born in Chang Chung in the Chinese province of Jilin in 1987. His works were not only exhibited in China but also in Europe. Among many other places his photos could be seen and purchased in Vienna’s “Ostlicht Galerie” in 2015. Ren Hang published a number of photo books which, however, are largely sold out by now. In his last years he lived and working in Beijing.

Ren Hang’s photographs tell stories. Stories of relationships, of friendships, of an emotional abyss, of anxiety and solitude, and of vulnerability. These stories are partly accompanied by some very absurd and abstract poses and strong facial expressions of the models who are often nude. The backgrounds are mostly very simple, with few nuances of color and recurring structures. As accessories Ren Hang used, among many other things, butterflies, flowers, leaves and other plants. He played with soft color nuances such as red fingernails or red lips. The nudity, which sometimes seems so vulnerable, is broken by the glances of the models who face the camera directly, which imparts a lot of sensuality to his pictures. Because of the mainly centrally placed subjects and persons the photos eradiate incredible peace. Despite their simplicity you will quickly get carried away and lost in the images.

At the same time, however, his photos are illustrations and portraits of Ren Hang’s generation, stories of his immediate environment and Chinese culture itself. Very often his models were his friends or even his fans. He also got arrested a couple of times because of his open-minded works which have often been considered as too provocative in his conservative home country. Fellow artists like Ai Weiwei, however, always supported Ren Hang.

His works published on his website  and on his Instagram account  reminds us of a great and sensitive artist who created lasting photos with his incredible sensitivity for aesthetics and emotions.

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Photos: Ren Hang

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