At first glance, Internal Stress by Beijing-born, Amsterdam-based Qiu Yang appears to be the work of some clever digital manipulation, however, the striking images were in fact shot in camera. Every photo in the series is the result of a scientific process that sees Qiu visualising the stress levels of various Chinese produced plastics, using photography to “reveal the invisible”.
Stress, in mechanics, is a physical quantity which expresses the internal forces neighbouring particles of a material exert on each other – “it basically defines the degree of tension exerted onto or laying within a material,” explains Qiu. If enough tension is applied to a material, it will reach its breaking point.
The materials used in Qiu’s photographs never reach their breaking point, instead Qiu applies compression and decompression to the plastic in order to release stress. To the human eye the plastics remain clear, however, through the use of photo-elasticity (a photographic visualisation technique used in the manufacturing industry) Qiu is able to reveal the colours that appear.
The project grew out of a desire to “unveil” and acts as a metaphor for the political distortions of China. Before moving to Amsterdam to study photography at Gerrit Rietveld in Amsterdam, Qiu started studying politics in China. “I see Internal Stress as a record of the observations I made of the internal affairs in contemporary China, which have been developing so rapidly,” he explains. The photos represent the mounting pressure that has left the country unclear when and if there will be a revolution, with the piercing colours signalling the urgency and intensity of China’s condition, “unveiling its inner turmoil.”
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Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.