Whether it’s an elf, an axed-up doll, a green goblin or a model brawling with a pig, the work of Chinese photographer Xiangyu Liu is seemingly unpredictable. It’s the kind of portfolio that makes you take a second glimpse, and one that you can find yourself scrolling through for days – gawking at the scurrilous compositions and playful use of props.
But surprisingly, photography wasn’t always his first calling. “I started as a fine art major in Russia, focusing on oil painting and fresco mosaic,” he says. “I always found photography to be a hobby.” What came next was a natural investigation into the medium. He began collecting all types of cameras, “studying their differences and documenting funny things in life,” he says. “Gradually, I came to meet many people who worked in fashion and I found the industry very appealing, so I began shooting for several magazines.”
Primarily a fashion photographer, he boasts a portfolio filled with commissions from publications such as Antidote, Replica, Modern Weekly, Dazed and Wallpaper, as well as various personal collections that are equally as tentative as they are encouraging. Indeed turning towards the more humorous side of things, the work of Xiangyu Liu characteristically defies all norms. It’s a mash up-up of the stylish and the outrageous, with over-exposed and flashed subjects that appear to be otherworldly. It’s like you’re taking a glimpse into the realms of a surrealist, who pulls his references from high-fashion and courageously throws in an odd bit scenery for comical effect. He also cites Ren Hang as one of his points of inspiration: “I love and respect Ren’s style, but I do not think our works are similar. He will always be many Chinese photographer’s role model and inspiration, for sure.”
In terms of his process, Xiangyu’s concepts develop organically. “My creative process is about living in the moment, mostly because I tend to encounter a lot of surprises on set,” he tells It’s Nice That. “An example of this is discovering hidden props or finding new subjects during the shooting process. I enjoy every surprise that this world has given me.”
A bout of spontaneity is what spurs this photographer. Presented in various forms, you can only imagine what happens on set – one day he could be photobombed by a feline friend, then next a naked lady with luscious locks might creep up at the window. Perhaps some lizards might fall into frame and land perfectly onto the genitals of a nude model, or a cheeky gnome feels like it’s his time to shine. Either way, Xiangyu’s knack for spontaneity is impeccable and his ability to stage a setting so absurd is one to admire – we can’t wait to see what he produces next.