photographer ren hang's nude portraits were banned in china

So he came to New York!

by Emily Manning
01 July 2015, 2:00pm

While you probably shouldn't be Googling Ren Hang's work on your office desktop, his images are far more Juergen Teller than PornHub. "College was just boring, so I started taking photos," the Chinese photographer told us of spending the past seven years capturing playful and spontaneous moments shared between friends in birthday suits. "I've never felt nudity is more important to capture; I just think it's more natural and appealing. And my friends trust me most."

But his homeland's government isn't laughing. The photographer's work is forbidden to be shown in Chinese galleries, and the authorities have even canned his non-explicit photo shows for mere "suspicion of sex." "My website, along with my profiles on social networks are constantly shut down," he said. "I have been arrested by the police during outdoor photo shoots. But I am used to all of this now."

Ren is one of countless Chinese artists subjected to an umbrella of censorship and exhibition restrictions. Most notable among them is Ai Weiwei, the prolific artist and activist who has been forbidden to leave the country since 2011. Although Weiwei has creatively worked around his travel ban -- directing Berlin, I Love You (a short film in the 10-part series Cities of Love) via Skype from his home in Beijing -- it was recently announced he may soon be allowed to visit London for an upcoming exhibition of his marble surveillance cameras and twisted steel rods collected from the site of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Banned in China but passport still intact, Ren took his show on the road and shot his latest series, New Love, in New York. But while you'd think he'd run wild through a city where freed nipples are legal, Ren actually didn't see much of a difference between American and Chinese outlooks. "To me, [the issue of censorship is] almost the same [in both places]. Because when I was taking photos at Central Park, I was still worried that cops might show up and stop me."

You can check out New Love's exhibition now open at Tokyo's Matchbaco Gallery or grab a copy at New York's Dashwood Books.


Text Emily Manning
Photography Ren Hang

New York
new love
Ren Hang