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Lao Xie Xie’s photos are the reflection of his soul

Lao Xie Xie is image-maker diving into subvert and traditional Chinese connotations. He developed his visual codes, aim to try the liberation of the body from shame constraints to get the audience’s attention.

Lao Xie Xie (pseudonym) is a contemporary photographer based in Shanghai that focuses his attention on the new Chinese youth generation and explicit content. Lao Xie Xie’s moves the lens of his camera between flesh, sex, gender, attraction, and confusion. His images portrayed Chinese subcultures that are moving through contradictions: destroyed old Chinese past and the rebuilt contemporary present. Are Lao Xie Xie’s photos provocative or are focusing on messy urban Chinese romance? Are his images portraying hectic young consumers or a generation bored in a Sad Planet of Capitalism? Lao Xie Xie showcases aesthetics that can be related to the generation portrayed by Ren Hang, a Chinese photographer and poet passed away in 2017, which mixed the power of the body with punk and erotic vision of life. Lao Xie Xie’s photography use of conspicuously Chinese elements remarks he’s not Chinese but European. Lao Xie Xie uses in a playful spirit, Chinese traditional elements, and details that are certainly unusual outside China. He put in his background absurd objects believable but that can be casual and accidental for China’s urban youth. He tries to interpreted new trends and traditions that are a part of the soul of the youth of this era, adding his own vision. He said, “I plan, but the result is never exactly the same as the original idea.”


My name is Lao Xie Xie. For reasons regarding the safety of my life in China, I like to keep my true identity hidden. Let’s say I’m just a human being who likes to express his vision of the world through the lens of an Olympus camera.” – Lao Xie Xie (Subtropical Asia)

How and when did you decide to choose photography as your main form of creative expression? Why did you want to become a visual artist?

I didn’t really choose it, it happens, sometimes in life, you discover your talent for the case. I always train my eyes watching exhibitions, movies, etc, and I always painted but photography maybe is the sum of all my experience.

Who influenced you as a person and as a creative? Can you tell us about the pieces of art that impressed you the most?

Sure this my personal list of artists in different fields and hope if someone doesn’t know one can go to search it and be inspired too 🙂
Jenny Saville, Robert Gligorov, Witkin, Saudek, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Lucian Freud, Alighieri Boetti, Terry Richardson, Cattelan, Oliviero Toscani, Kuniyoshi, Saeki, Araki, Takeshi Kitano, Canova, Delacroix, David Lynch, Tarantino, Pasolini, Caravaggio.

Veiled Christ of Giuseppe Sanmartino is the essence of art, when you see that you realize how humans can do something incredible, with just a raw piece of stone and hands. He can stimulate your soul. Incredible!

What is your relationship with China, and how does this affect your visual projects? Do you feel more as a bystander or an empathetic visual traveler?

I m living in Shanghai that is a bit different for the rest of China, same as you talk about NewYork with use or Berlin with Germany. Anyway here there is not much space about culture and art, is a city totally oriented in business and if you are a creative person living here you suffer about that…all the old houses are destroyed to make space to new buildings and shopping malls, so in my small, I’m trying to bring back under my lens something more culturally related. On my photos maybe there is 60%of my personality and 40 China soul.

Why China nowadays is a unique place where to take photos for telling stories about humans been?

I think everyplace have some good stories to tell, just need to find the right angle. The difference with China is that here for many years there was a lacking of art and culture, due to the cultural revolution, so many aspect locals in other countries already see and see it again but in China is something new, let me explain, for example, in Japan, they already move on from the stereotype visual image of the country and they create other million of new visual languages but in China, we stock to the first step about that, slowly is changing with the new generations … China is a land of innovation, and everything is going faster to reach and surpass others …the problem of when you do something too fast, is that you lose some details, and details are important if you run for the marathon and not for the speed race …

Do you think your images can increase the awareness of an untold Chinese reality?

I have a vision more Schopenhauer orientated, my photos are out of space and time, of course, are influenced by the reality I m living, but also this reality is the addition of all my experiences, I don’t wanna carry the responsibility to be a flag of something is not totally under my control.

Where do you find your inspiration? What is the creative process behind your photos? What do you want to tell?

I find my inspiration of my daily life, when I walk around, when I go to buy food or when I m under the shower, I can’t turn off my brain, so sometimes I start to think about something I saw in the past days and pop up some ideas. Every photo have is own storytelling about my ideas and my experience, but sometimes you don’t need to find what the artist wanna see, I hate when people go to some exhibition and they focus more to listen the bullshit of the guide then follow the emotion of what they feel to watching a painting…need a tutorial to improve to use your soul.

What medium did you use most for your photo projects? What is the main reason for you to shooting films during the digital era?

Films have this magic of don’t know how are pictures until you develop the film, we live in a time where we have instant satisfy, we losing the beauty of the travel focusing just to the arrive….so for me use this media is kind of gentle revolution, keep some emotion alive in this cold world …

Can you share with us any story behind an idea for a photo or a series that are meaningful for you?

OK, so let’s say the girl inside the cart: the title is “tan tan”; tantan is a popular dating app Chinese same as tinder where you can find girls o boys, ok! So that time I have been to the house of this model for taking pictures and in her basement, she had this cart, so I put her inside and from the stair, I take that photos. I had the sensation during the shooting that image can have power but I didn’t have the confirmation until I saw it after I scanned it. So, in this case, everything start from a case ( she had a cart in her house) my intuition, and then I put the meaning after that inside the image, so as tartan is kind of supermarket where people spend less than a second to choose a person same as a drink in the supermarket…you get my point…

Has your creativity routine changed during COVID-19? Did you take pictures during the quarantine?

No, I just stayed home to fix my portfolio during that time.

Do you think that this pandemic will affect or change your way of work on photography projects?

No, until now everything is getting normal as before, and I hope will continue like this …

Featured Image: Andromeda
Photo courtesy of Lao Xiexie

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