Some photographers find their calling at an early age, playing around with a parent’s camera and taking snapshots of their friends. Not Su Yang, who also works under the name Jan Sol. As a child, he never felt drawn to photography, and he didn’t really start taking pictures until college. “I was studying advertising, and a professor told us to carry around a camera, so we could capture inspiration on the fly,” he says. “I liked taking shots of scenery everywhere, and when I put them online, to my surprise a lot of people liked them, which motivated me to keep going.” Eventually, magazines and fashion brands took note and started seeking him out for collaborations—and before long, almost by accident, he’d become a professional photographer.
Unsurprisingly for a fashion photographer, most of Su’s work features human subjects. Yet that wasn’t always the case. “When I first started out, I didn’t like to take pictures of people at all,” he says. “I was far more interested in the world around me than in other people—and not just in terms of photography.” Shots of scenes and landscapes seemed let him more easily express his moods.
Later, as he started taking fashion assignments more regularly, he began to study the works of classic photographers and became fascinated with how they captured their subjects at a particular moment. “Only then did I start to practice, and the more I shot human subjects, the more interesting I found them.”
作为一名时尚摄影师来说，他的作品自然大多是人像作品，但他说，“其实最开始拍照的时候，我是一点都不爱拍人的。” 他说，“我当时对周遭环境事物的兴趣远远大过对人的兴趣，不仅仅是在摄影上。” 对他来说，场景和风景照片更适合传达情绪。
Even Su’s noncommercial photography carries the imprint of his background in fashion. He often shoots his models alone in a room, sitting half-naked on a bed or on the floor, sunlight filtering onto rumpled bedsheets. The models have an air of self-conscious vulnerability as if they’re aware of how exposed they are—and aware too of how unnatural their position is, how strange it is to be sitting for a photograph. Su seems almost to be reminding us how carefully staged the moment is.
In one photo, for example, two models, chests bared, look directly at the camera, their eyes meeting the viewer’s gaze. Yet their candor is at odds with their tension in their arms and the affectation of the props in front of them—a dinosaur figurine, a dragonfruit, and an open pomegranate. This combination of intimacy and artifice resembles nothing so much as a fashion shoot.
For Su, taking photos of human subjects offers more than just a glimpse of a life at a moment in time. It forges a link between photographer and subject. “It’s about you participating in an interactive relationship—in the relationship between you and someone else. Your every move affects it,” he notes philosophically. “Whenever I shoot people, I’m actually constantly learning new ways to interact or connect. This is something really wonderful, even a bit zen.”
His most recent project, Shanghai Passengers, is a study in the fleeting connections forged by the outsiders who pass through China’s largest city. “In recent years, Shanghai has had more interaction with the broader world. Every day a lot of people come and go, either stopping by for a few days or staying on for a year or two.” These visitors come with diverse backgrounds, and they mold their identity in response to their surroundings. “I find this fascinating. It’s like peering out from a box into a room, and this room is a part of the city.”
Recently Su has begun re-evaluating his relationship to his art. “For the last year or two what I’ve focused on is pausing and returning to my own life, immersing myself in my relationship to my surroundings, and trying to get out of the ruts of my previous photography.”
Oddly enough, his philosophical view of photography as source of human connection has led him to turn his lens back to scenes without people. “I’ve become interested in real things again. I’ve returned to landscapes and documentary photography,” he says. “It’s like a circle, and you’ve reached a certain point again. But then you discover it’s really different from last time.”
最近，苏洋开始重新审视自己与艺术的关系， “近一两年更多是停下来重新回归到自己的生活里，融入到自己与周遭的关系里，尽力抛除以前拍摄时候的 ‘惯性’。”
This newfound interest in things is less a move away from human subjects than an attempt to hone a style. Whether he’s shooting for a fashion brand or working on his own projects, Su seeks to make his photography distinctively his own. “Now I understand my work as conveying a sense that it’s mine,” he says. “It’s a pretty individualized thing.”