“Chinese Photographer Ren Hang Dead at 29. The provocative Chinese photographer Ren Hang has died. He was 29 years old. While the cause of death has not yet been confirmed, several outlets, including the Dutch publication DeMorgen, have reported that Hang committed suicide last night”
Ren Hang and Purity of Spirit
I just did a story on Ren Hang, (Ren Hang – The New China), and his amazing images that he milks out of the simplest of film equipment. A simple Minolta X-700. While nudity was his main subject matter, and most westerners would view his work as the “norm”, you must remember he did this work in China where it was viewed as controversial.
Creativity is a very limited commodity in China, and is, for the most part, frowned upon. Look at the imprisoning of Ai Weiwei and other Chinese artists for works that most of the west would consider banal in the political sense.
Being a Ren Hang in China not only meant you had to be very creative, but also brave. Whether this repressive censorship had anything to do with his death, we will probably never know. Being in an environment where any shoot or show can be disrupted and brought to a halt by police had to contribute to a very high stress level. Weirdly, he never considered any of his work to be taboo or out of the global mainstream. In fact, if you compared it to a Japanese artist like Araki, it was quite tame. But Japan is not China.
That said, his images did challenge Chinese morality and boundaries. Whether he intended it to or not. But he viewed his images as a fun time. And strangely, his models, male or female, asi objects. He once said that the only time gender mattered to him was when he was having sex. To the dismay of the Chinese officials, his new group exhibit in the Netherlands, “FUCK OFF 2”, and others, was straying from the party line.
The Infancy of International Fame
While he may have hinted at fetishes such as sadomasochism, and his images of erotic poses and sexual organs was apparent, he treated each subject with a kind of purity of thought in his universe. Amsterdam’s Foam dedicated a show to the burgeoning Chinese artist titled ‘Naked/Nude’ in response to his being awarded the Outset | Unseen Exhibition Fund for emerging artists.
Judges at the Unseen Photo Fair held in Europe, commented that they awarded the “fashion award” to Ren Hang because of his “irreverent and playfully sexual compositions creating new sculptural forms using the body”. Although, in fact, he was not a ‘Fashion Photographer’ in any sense of the phrase. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room here to show Ren Hang’s vast portfolio of striking imagery and do him justice.
Ren Hang,…R.I.P. You will be missed. 1987 – 2017