Beijing-based photographer No. 223 documents the people and relationships in the world around him through a lens of intimacy. His work, self-described as “free, spontaneous, unconventional, and unreasonable,” offers viewers a deeply personal look into his views on sexuality, the human body, and life in general.
While best known for his photography, No. 223 is also an avid author and independent publisher. Despite his versatility in mediums, his overall creative aspirations are one in the same. He tells us, “Sex is an essential part of life, so I try to depict as such in my works. It’s just like eating, sleeping, going out, and socializing. I just choose to record it objectively, not for the purpose of voyeurism or exposing secrets. I like the human body, so naturally, that means a lot of my works will be related to the human form.”
For personal projects, No. 223 often enlists friends as models. He’s found this approach to produce a much more organic and collaborative dynamic that allows everyone to be themselves. “The subjects in my photographs are often chosen subconsciously,” he shares of his intuitive approach. “For example, the first time that I meet somebody, I might have a strong desire to take their photo. On the other hand, when it comes to friends who I’ve known for a long time, I may not want to just casually take their photo. The action of photography comes instinctively. Some of my subjects will think that I’ve captured a sexier or more carefree version of their normal selves, while others will think that I made them look like a mess without proper styling, but to me, I feel like I’m just showing them in a natural state.”
Being that No. 223’s photography is so closely interlinked with his own life and interpersonal relationships, there are certain topics that he’s continuously inspired by and hopes to further explore in his work going forward. “What moves me the most is observing people as they slowly change over time,” No. 223 tells us. “Their skin, their gaze, their hair, the wrinkles around their eyes, their body, and so on. I wish I had the chance to capture these changes that I notice every time I see them.”
For No. 223, his creative objectives aren’t just about the superficial documentation of personal moments. The intimate nature of his work reflects his ambitions of understanding the notion of self. His photography is both passive observation and a form of self-expression. “Many of my works are about my personal journey and the things I’ve encountered in my daily life. My works that concern sexuality and the human form fall into the latter category, but it’s not that I’m focusing on sex or the human body, but rather, I see my work as being related to life and growth. Sex just happens to be a part of that.”
Ultimately, No. 223’s creativity is driven by a personal desire to better understand his own role in this world as well as the ever-changing relationship between humans and society.