This photographer thinks ‘it’s time to take the clothes off’ and get naked
Yolanda Y. Liou’s latest project came about by accident in lockdown, but quickly became something special that deserved turning into a book.
“This book shows my obsession with human bodies and how beautiful I think they are.”
Yolanda Y. Liou was always surrounded by art growing up. Born and raised in Taiwan, her mother, a painter, covered the walls of the many different houses they lived in with her artwork. “But she never actually taught me painting,” Yolanda says. “I once asked her much later on why she didn’t, I would have become a very skilful painter! She said she didn’t want to restrict my creativity, and I forever thank her for that.”
In Taiwan, “it’s all about getting the best grades and getting the best jobs in traditional social values, such as doctors or lawyers,” Yolanda says, which wasn’t something that interested her. “I did well academically so I got by, but I was quite rebellious and I always felt very suffocated and there was a lot of anger in me.” After leaving school, Yolanda studied theatre design at university, but dropped out after one semester to go live in Australia for a year. “Then I went backpacking in Europe and relocated to the UK in 2011.” It was on this trip that Yolanda began taking photographs. “My mum gave me a little digital camera and it was revolutionary for me -- it was so instant and I had total control.”
In the years that followed, her interest has grown in exploring the body through her photography. Her contribution to Neo Hua Ren, an exhibition last year of London-based young artists from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong exemplified this. In it, Yolanda rejected the idea of skinniness equating beauty, and presented a series of gorgeous images of plus-sized model Enam Asiama. “I’ve realised how much I adore human bodies and how this obsession originated from my own struggle with my body since childhood, which has a huge effect on me mentally and physically.”
In her new book, I Think It's Time to Take the Clothes Off, Yolanda pushes forward with the exploratory nature of her images, stripping back two models and photographing them in moving and delicate detail. “This book was created during lockdown by accident. I was making a book called Eye Am Lonely, a photo-diary book to provide a self-healing process of dealing with the madness in my head. The moment when I finished it, I knew it wasn’t right. I felt frustrated and started making collages — a way for me to decompress when I have too much going on in my mind. I was playing with the images of Akti and Xristina and then I started seeing a connection and went on to make this book.”
Yolanda developed the black-and-white film for this book herself. “I’m interested in inviting imperfection and unpredictability into the image-making process, allowing the materiality of the film to coexist with the photographic image.” She also deliberately soaks the film rolls in various fluids causing the film material to degrade. “Ultimately this book shows my obsession with human bodies and how beautiful I think they are,” she finishes with. “How two separate images can become one when they are placed side by side — something that is not evident when either image is seen individually.”
I Think It’s Time to Take the Clothes Off is available to purchase here.
All images courtesy Yolanda Y. Liou