Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Bruises and Disguises

Mar 05, 2021 - Zhidong Zhang

I think in most cases, if not all, that upbringing plays a significant role in a photographer’s practice–not just limited to subject matter, but also in one’s way of thinking and approach to image making. In my own practice, I feel most of the time I’m negotiating with my own upbringing through an active act of recognition and reconfiguration. As a closeted gay kid raised in a traditional Chinese family, the expression of true identity becomes a luxury, or even a taboo if it doesn’t sound too daunting and self-pitying. There is no doubt that queer identities in China have become increasingly visible–as the government’s elusive policy towards homosexuality actually provides spaces for the formation of queer community and activist networks–but same-sex romance and sexual discourses are still outside the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in society. This is especially true within my own family.


So in a lot of ways, the work I’m making is derivative from my own personal experiences growing up in that suppressed societal and familial backdrop. I think making work about being queer is an act of imbuing queer invisibility with agency and power, and encouraging myself to see beyond what the dominant culture chooses to make visible and accessible. It’s important for me to make work that doesn’t subscribe to these limited aesthetics and audiences.