Solace

Portraits of Queer Chinese Youth

By SARAH MEI HERMAN

Same-sex relationships have been an accepted part of Chinese culture for centuries. It was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, under the influence of the West, that homophobia became more prevalent; and under Mao, homosexuality was criminalized. By the turn of the last millennium, same-sex relationships were once again legal, and by 2001, homosexuality had been declassified as a mental disorder. Polling suggests that the younger generation embraces sexual diversity and LGBTQ rights. But the stigma against queer people still remains. Recent reports from China have noted government attempts to clamp down on LGBTQ media and events, and numerous citizens are still being sent by family members to conversion therapy.
 

Acclaimed Dutch photographer Sarah Mei Herman first started photographing young queer people and their personal relationships during an artist residency in Xiamen in Fujian Province on China’s southeastern coast. As she explored what drew these people together, she herself built up close friendships with her subjects, capturing the way they have changed over the course of a number of years. Even after returning to the Netherlands, she continued photographing Chinese-born queer people.
 
Sarah Mei Herman is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London. Her work has been shown internationally at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Le Chateau d’Eau in Toulouse, and JIMEI X ARLES International Photofestival, among others locations.

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