Xiaopeng Yuan: “Hiding behind a camera is like hiding in a stage curtain”

‘Through the lens’ is our monthly series that highlights Wallpaper * contributing photographers. Here, Xiaopeng Yuan talks about his vision, process and shots that make his heart beat faster

Widely regarded as a name to watch in his field, Chinese photographer Xiaopeng Yuan is refreshingly honest about his unwitting inspirations and creative doubts. In 2013, Yuan co-founded Same Paper Publishing Studio, which recently produced Still life, an impressive collection of intelligent works created in the midst of the 2020 global shutdown.

For our June 2021 issue, the photographer visited Mario Tsai’s studio to immortalize the sleek creations of the Chinese entrepreneur designer. Here, Yuan shines a light on his point of view.

From the book Country child, published by Loose Joints, courtesy of Xiaopeng Yuan

Wallpaper *: Describe your style and process

Xiaopeng Yuan: My current way of working is to build a scene and then observe. The final image may be the result of my observation and how I feel, but I don’t think it’s styling. To be honest, I often feel uncertain after a shoot; I think about it and wonder what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
In addition to this, you will need to know more about it.
I love it when my existence, or even the interference of a camera, is forgotten by the subjects I photograph. This kind of situation is rare and often short-lived. Every time I experience this my heart beats faster. In this sense, hiding behind a camera is like hiding in a stage curtain. The photos taken during this time are always my favorite.

Photographed by Xiaopeng Yuan for the June 2021 issue of Wallpaper (W * 266), left designer Mario Tsai with a special acrylic edition of his “Grid” bench in his Hangzhou studio. On the right, the ‘Grid’ bench, with Tsai BoJack’s dog in the background

W *: Tell us how you brought your way of working to our story on designer Mario Tsai

XY: For most of the shoots, I will do meticulous and detailed preparation. However, it depends on the scale. For a shoot like the one with Mario Tsai, I prefer to go light and improvise, building on previous experiences.

W *: What do you think is the most interesting thing happening in photography right now?

XY: To be honest, I don’t care much about what’s going on in photography, so I don’t have an in-depth opinion. My answer would be very one-sided, although I really enjoy sharing new works on Instagram with other photographers.

Of Country child, published by Loose Joints, courtesy of Xiaopeng Yuan

W *: What’s on your radar?

XY: Inspirations are always accidental, some may come from memes, others from a book. If I have to name an artist, the first that comes to mind is American artist Roe Ethridge. I have a lot of Ethridge books from different periods; I take them out often and read them.

W *: What’s the next step for you this year?

XY: Besides photography, part of my job is running a self-publishing studio, Same Paper. We are currently working on new projects. However, the most exciting things tend to be the ones that cannot be easily disclosed. §

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