When we stumbled upon the Instagram of Beijing-based photographer Tyler Q Durden, we were struck by his beautiful work. Soft imagery placing models within the natural landscape features across his grid creating a sense of tranquil calm. Because of this beautiful style though, we were equally as intrigued by Tyler’s name, a clear nod to Fight Club and a reference that feels at odds with the serene work he’s putting out there. Turns out, the juxtaposition is very much on purpose as acts as a metaphor for his personality and the deeper levels of his work: “I would describe myself as a person seemingly quiet outside, but in my heart, there is a Tyler Durden. It is similar to my visual language, it seems peaceful and quiet, but wild on the inside.”
This notion that there is always more to someone or something than meets the eye runs through Tyler’s work. In a series called 火山 (Volcano), it informs a wide-ranging body of work, shot over several locations with several subjects. Tyler explains the series is “a metaphor, saying every single person is like a sleeping volcano. We accumulate energy (emotion) until we erupt.” He, therefore, documents his friends in varying emotional states throughout their lives, capturing the plethora of human emotions in turn. “These images are almost like self-reflection, like a mirror,” Tyler explains, adding that when photographing “I usually put myself in their situation, a stage of life that I have experienced, as well as connecting with them through my visual.” The series, therefore, documents Tyler’s own personal growth alongside that of his friends’, as well as his journey of getting to know his subjects better.
Pulling on his own experiences as he did in 火山 is a major part of Tyler’s process, he explains. “Every single inspiration comes from my own past experience, such as a movie, a song, or random things in life. These experiences create images in my head, and I express them through photography.” In fact, he first picked up a camera to document the every day in this sense. Essentially bored while hanging out with friends every day, he started photographing everything they were doing and the hobby soon became a passion. Tyler adds that as a graphic design major at the time, “visual art has always been fascinating to me” but that photography in particular drew him in “probably because it is faster and easier way to express myself.”
What really stands out throughout Tyler’s work is his ability to document intimacy in an authentic way. His images seem to stop time and his subjects, often interacting with one another seem to be unaware of his lens, lost in the moment. In a series titled 爱戀 (Ai-Lian) which means love/relationship in Chinese, this is especially evident. “It is about using the same method [火山] as to capture the instant moment of kissing,” Tyler tells us. “I want to freeze this one moment forever. Emotion is complicated, but love simplifies everything.”
Tyler’s most recent work, a project titled WeAreSoClose, saw him taking photos as usual but also direct a video. “As modern technology and the internet made our pace faster, we became distanced at the same time, we stopped paying attention to the nature,” Tyler explains of the project’s premise. “Under the post-pandemic era, I had this urge to want real connections with both humans and nature, therefore I am inspired to shoot this series in the suburbs of Beijing. The goal is to remind us of the importance of going back to nature, and having real connection with friends, face-to-face like a child.”
No matter what the topic or theme, Tyler sees every project as a chance to explore more about himself as well as his subjects. He wants to therefore continue using his camera to “have a better understanding of my inside world,” and hopefully run an exhibition sometime in the future too.
Tyler Q Durden: 火山 (Volcano), Le (Copyright © Tyler Q Durden, 2021)
About the Author
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.