Photos & Text: Suzy
I met fellow photographer Liangshuang at a Lane Crawford event last year. We instantly bonded over our views on the Beijing fashion scene and decided to share our conversation in this exclusive STYLITES Interview.
Hi, Liangshuang, where are you from originally and what brought you to Beijing?
I am originally from Jilin province where I majored in film and television studies in Changchun. After graduating in 2008, I came to Beijing to work as a freelance photographer and illustrator for Chinese Esquire.
That sounds like a great first job. What dreams do you have for your career? How do you see your future?
I really love photography. My dream is that one day I won’t have to worry about the pressure of having to make money from it, and that I’ll be able to enjoy the sort of work that I love most.
When we met last year, I noticed you were using a couple of different cameras, an I-Pad and also an old analogue Nikon FM2. Recently, using old cameras has become rather trendy, and a lot of people have also jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. What do you think about that?
Well, lately, I have encountered a lot of people who can afford old-fashioned cameras like Leicas, Voigtlanders or Hasselblads, but lack the photography skills; they are often unable to properly use them or produce a good quality picture. More and more people have the means to buy a good camera, but sadly, it is mostly just to show off.
So old-fashioned cameras are becoming a fashion accessory?
That’s right. Much like people wear handbags or branded clothes to be trendy and fashionable, old cameras are becoming a cool accessory, but fewer and fewer peopleuse them to take good pictures.…
How about Instagram and the I-Phone/ I-Pad craze? What do you think makes a new/old-looking picture so attractive nowadays?
I think that Instagram and vintage-style photographs have a different character than modern and clean pictures. They can represent a specific aesthetic attribute of life that is related to why a lot of people are getting into buying vintage fashion and accessories: Old-fashioned is the new cool.
But on the other hand, modern technology and instant picture sharing like what is happening on Weibo are hugely popular. You can even find people that have tens of thousands of followers and update almost every 20 minutes. Do you think that Weibo changed the way people present themselves through the internet?
Of course! Nowadays, most people are very active on social networks and a lot of them are eager to have a larger number of followers or “friends”. I think that a lot of people you meet on social networks like Weibo, Twitter or Facebook create a certain virtual image of themselves. Don’t forget that you only see what people want you to see! Today, the world is constantly becoming smaller and smaller, online communication has replaced face-to-face interaction in many fields; someone, whose social network presentation is trendy and easy on the eye, can easily attract many followers.
On the other hand, social networking has its benefits: With the help of my Weibo, I can meet people that have a similar interest in art and photography, discover new things and ideas, and of course, also get people to notice me and my work.
It is definitely true that the world has become a smaller place, the same blogs and magazines are available in almost every country now and styles might develop in similar directions. Nevertheless, new trends sometimes pop up unexpectedly. Personally, I like classic styles with a little twist. Can you tell me where you take your inspiration from and in which areas or shops you buy clothes?
I think we are constantly surrounded by fashion – magazines, the internet, on the street – which influences us consciously or subconsciously. I think I have already developed a personal style, but it is very hard for me to tell where my inspiration comes from exactly. In Beijing, I like to shop high-street brands but also often go to the small no-name shops, they are a great place to find good bargains.
You have been living in Beijing for three years now, how would you describe the city to someone who had never been here? And would you say that living in Beijing has changed your life or introduced you to new things and opinions?
For everyone that wants to come to Beijing to experience a bustling city, old Chinese folk customs and modern fashion, the city is a great place to be. But if you are moving here for work, you should prepare your heart and soul for a lot of psychological pressure and demands: It is easy to go astray or to lose yourself in the temptations of this city. The first time I came to Beijing, I was still a child; by now, my perspective has changed a lot.
We were speaking about your own style before, do you think that parents and young people are going different ways in developing a style identity? What role do you think young people play nowadays?
Yes, I can give you a very funny example for that: My mother used to always dress in grey, black or white when she was younger. I think I am also strongly influenced by her style. However, as she gets older, she is beginning to like more colourful clothes and suddenly starts criticizing me for wearing black and white so much! Maybe she thinks that my taste is not as well developed as hers…
Do you think that the one-child policy plays a part in the fashion identity of people from mainland China?
I am sure it does! For one, being an only-child means that you don’t have to wear your older sibling’s hand-me-down clothing! On the other hand, the effect can be quite ambiguous: younger people might nurture the wish to be different than the mainstream, but they also don’t want to miss out on any trends.
Thank you Liangshuang, for sitting down with us!