In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a feminist movement was underway in the Western world. Dubbed as “first-wave feminism,” this initial fight centered on suffrage and other political rights. Since then, society has made further strides towards gender equality, yet many issues remain. Throughout the fight, art and literature have served as indispensable tools in amplifying the voice of women. Take, for example, British author Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Room, which spoke out against social injustices that female writers have long faced.
Inspired by Woolf, Miroir Project is a platform with similar aspirations of empowering female creativity, though instead of female authors, their focus is on female photographers. The team behind the project believes that photography is a particularly fitting medium for the expression of feminity and that their platform offers a way for like-minded women photographers to meet, share ideas, and explore matters of identity together. These beliefs are the main impetus behind the project.
Lao Yan, the nickname of one of Miroir Project’s cofounders, says, “As I got older, I realized the importance of facilitating a space where like-minded individuals can meet others like them. Finding common ground with someone is like looking into a mirror, and if you look closely enough, you can gain a clearer picture of who you yourself are.”
Miroir Project’s other co-founder, who goes by the nickname of Liang Liang, met Lao Yan in 2016 when they were both working as photographers at a rock concert. They quickly became friends over their shared love of photography. After countless discussions, they realized that China lacked a platform dedicated to female photographers, and they decided to take the matter into their own hands with Miroir Project, which officially debuted in 2020.
早在十九世纪末至二十世纪初，女性运动便在全球各地发生，引发文化、社会、政治、教育等方方面面的变革，这场横跨大陆的运动掀起人类历史上女性主义的 “第一波”。直至二十一世纪的当代，女性的声音藉由互联网、新闻媒体推波助澜，涉及的话题和区域变得更为宽泛。不可否认，这波浪潮已是近现代社会发展中最不容小觑的声音。而艺术和文艺界更是声场中的主力军，早在十八世纪，便涌现出一批著作把女性在社会中的地位这一问题推向了历史的前台。二十世纪上半叶，英国作家弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫（Virginia Woolf）的经典著作《自己的房间》（A Room of One’s Own）中，你便能强烈地体会到，那种身为一个女性渴望打破社会的刻板印象、唤醒自我意识以及挖掘自身潜力的声音。
受到弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫的启发，最近一场名为《无尽的房间》（A Myriad of Rooms）的巡回展览在中国三座城市陆续展开，展览的发起者是 “照镜子MiroirProject”，一个专注于国内女性摄影推广的独立平台。相比于历史上西方社会发生的女性运动，平台没有剑拔弩张的态势，而是由一群女性摄影爱好者和艺术家“掌镜”，通过摄影这种表达自我的艺术方式，让更多女孩彼此认识，并找到认同感；同时，也为她们提供了一种展示、了解自己的机会，这恰恰是平台成立的初衷。“照镜子”主创之一老严说道：“成长的过程中，我们会更喜欢身处在一个得到更多认同感的环境中，认同感就像是一面面镜子，让我们可以找到真正的自己。”
老严与平台另一位主创靓靓的相遇是在四年前的一次摇滚现场，那晚她们拍摄了同一支乐队，因为都酷爱摄影，后来彼此成为朋友。在彼此共同交流与学习的过程中，她们发现国内并没有专门扶持女性摄影的项目。成立一个这样的平台的想法，后来在 2020 年兑现。
Social and feminist issues are topics near and dear to Lao Yan and Liang Liang’s hearts. They’ve observed that Chinese girls are prone to struggling with low self-esteem and insecurity—which they believe is intrinsically linked with the patriarchal thought that has long permeated traditional Chinese society. “Whether in school or at home, girls are taught differently from boys,” she says. “Boys are taught to be confident, be competitive, and shoulder responsibility. Girls, on the other hand, are taught that their careers should come secondary to marriage, and it’s a belief that’s now ingrained into people. This fact has made girls overly conscious about their outward appearances. If a person is only focused on what they look like, it’s not surprising if they’re insecure.”
Lao Yan believes that Chinese women are shackled by too many stereotypes. They’re under constant scrutiny and assigned with a variety of expectations. Being subject to this constant barrage of outside opinions has a tremendous impact on how they feel about themselves. When they can’t meet the expectations of their family, teachers, or society, feelings of insecurity or inferiority are inevitable.
The duo believes that this unrelenting anxiety inflicted by society is silencing female voices in China, and in the face of these issues, it’s even more important for women to be heard. “Having a voice is crucial,” Lao Yan says. “It can help a person establish a safe space where they’re free to express themselves. When your voice can be heard, a person becomes more confident in expressing themselves. This is especially empowering for the marginalized.”
Miroir Project feature works from female photographers of all calibers—it doesn’t matter whether they’re a rookie shooter or a veteran photographer. Everyone is given a chance to be seen. For many, especially the lesser-known photographers, the feedback is incredibly encouraging. “Recognition is important,” Lao Yan says. “It’s infectious, and recognition can be handed down. It’s just a cycle of positive energy.”
一直以来，老严和靓靓是社会和身边女性的观察者，她们认为“自卑”和“不安全感”是当代女生中普遍存在的现状。归咎其原因，靓靓认为是中国传统 “重男轻女” 的思想、以及社会新闻中男性占据主导等等种种现状所至。她解释道：“在学校和家庭的教育中，女生不像男生那样，从小被灌输自信、有担当、有竞争意识。反倒是 ‘工作找得好不如嫁得好’ 这样的言论占据上风。就导致了当代女性 ‘容貌焦虑’ 的加重，传统的价值观在引导女性认为容貌与能力或许具有更为紧密的联系。如果把注意力都放在外在，不安全感会被放大。” 老严则认为，当代女性依然被某种刻板印象所 “凝视”，被赋予特别的期望和审视，这种别人的看法潜移默化地影响了女生对自我的认知，当无法满足家庭、学校、群体、社会的期望后，很容易变得自卑和不安。
Lao Yan lives in Fuzhou while Jing Jing lives in Shanghai, so most of their collaboration takes place online. Lao Yan focuses on marketing and discovering talents, while Jing Jing handles sponsorships and everything that’s design-related.
Since August of 2020, they’ve regularly posted photography showcases on their Weibo, WeChat, and Instagram accounts. Posts fall under four categories. Miroir Girls is the mainstay, which are posts that highlight different female photographers from around China. Miroir Reco, their earliest category, shares the works of overseas female photographers with Chinese audiences. Their upcoming category, Miroir Reflections, will offer Chinese translations of write-ups penned by female photographers from around the world.
Since the platform’s debut, the duo’s mailbox has been flooded with thousands of submissions. It’s hardly surprising—for many fledgling photographers, having their works shown in front of new audiences and seeing an outpouring of support can feel particularly rewarding. “It’s like a bonfire, one that’s been lit by everyone who’s come together to keep the flames of femininity stoked,” Lao Yan says. “We’ve seen so many female photographers, who went from being relatively unknown, to being discovered, and being confident as a result, of being more willing to express themselves. It’s uplifting to us to see how everyone embraces this common value and to give girls a sense of belonging. It’s given us a stronger sense of mission and will to keep our platform going.”
As their community grew, the duo decided to run a photography competition for Chinese female photographers. The inaugural competition kicked off in early 2021 and was open to all, no matter their background or experience. As long as they were a photography enthusiast with a similar mindset, they could participate. Over 300 applicants sent in their work and 30 photographers were shortlisted. The judges include Wang Shuai, the vice dean of Tianjin School of Art; Liu Jiaxing, one of the co-founders of Arbre Gallery, Ding Ding, one of the founders of Xiangyue. Aside from first, second, and third place prizes, separate awards were given out based on viewer favorites and honorary mentions. “Works were based on authenticity, on whether or not the works were narratively cohesive, and the potential of it,” Lao Yan explains.
老严和靓靓分别在不同的城市，老严是福州人、靓靓居住在上海。两人通常在线上沟通工作。老严是平台的“外交官”，负责对接内容和社交；靓靓把关美学和包装，担任平台的平面视觉，还兼顾着“拉赞助”的差事。平台创立之前，老严是海归的职场人士、靓靓还在攻读大学，拍照只是业余爱好；不过随着 2020 年 8 月创两人决定成立平台开始，“照镜子” 陆续在微博、微信公众号和 Instagram 上开设平台账号，摄影对她们来说，成了“当务之急”。
点进“照镜子”微博，三个固定栏目块映入眼帘。“女孩掌镜 MiroirGirls” 是平台的主打栏目，于线上征集女性摄影师的作品，尔后经过筛选发布在微博上；“镜荐 MiroirReco” 是平台最早开设的栏目，对国内外女性摄影师作品进行分享和推荐；“镜面 Miroir Comm” 则更具深度与思考，不定期为读者翻译国外女性摄影师文章。
随着这面“镜子”的扩大，老严和靓靓决定举办一场比赛，「照镜子第一届女性摄影师大赛」被敲定在 2021 年初进行。无论妳是否具备专业学术背景，只要对摄影与艺术创作感兴趣，相信女性摄影的价值和力量，都可以来参加比赛。大赛的公告一经推出便吸引了近三百人前来投稿。最终，其中三十位摄影师脱颖而出，再由资深摄影评委（天津美术学院摄影系副主任王帅、一树Arbre艺术空间负责人刘佳欣、象曰联合创始人丁丁）和两位主创共同推选出大赛一、二、三等奖、根据转发和点赞数推选出最佳人气奖、以及三位照镜子特别选择奖。关于评选的标准，老严透露：“作品的真诚、逻辑性、潜能是我们最看重的三点。”
The shortlisted photographers showcased works that touched on a wide range of themes and topics. The first-place winner, photographer Liu Sidan, submitted a touching series dedicated to her parents, but her mom and dad appear in a surprising way: they’re only seen in large print-outs that Liu has made from old family photos. For Liu, who’s spent the majority of her adult life overseas, this was her way of revisiting her memories of family and her hometown.
Second place was a tie between photographer Soojo Lee and Chen Ziqiu. Lee’s project featured a series of moody scenes consumed by darkness, ranging from a snapped branch sitting in a puddle of mud to the silhouette of a bell peeking out from a tower’s arched windows.
Chen’s submission is similarly bleak, though not outwardly so. Her work reflected on the emptiness of life, and through her brightly lit snapshots, she sought to counteract the sense of despondence that haunted her.
Aside from the winners, plenty of other noteworthy photographers are featured on the shortlist.
刘思典的《与家人在家》系列作品在大赛中拔得头筹，照片中讲述了她自己与家人的温暖故事；不同的是，照片中的爸妈，以巨型打印照片的形式出现，被摆放在与现实相似的场景当中，达到了以假乱真的地步。刘思典一直在外地生活，她希望以这种方式与家庭记忆进行联动，并给予自己对故乡的思念。摄影师 Soojo Lee 和陈子秋并列获得此次大赛的二等奖。在 Soojo Lee 的系列作品《野渡须弥山》中，她以佛教的神山须弥山为灵感，融合自己对佛教的理解，创作出数张现实与梦幻的墨影；陈子秋认为自己的生活被虚无笼罩，创作了《生活之锚》系列作品，捕捉那些生活中精神低迷的瞬间，以示对抗……
Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own was published in 1929, and with it, she established the idea of women building a “room” that exists outside of patriarchal structures. She advocates for women to express themselves, think independently, and live freely to achieve their full potential. It’s a piece of literature that has greatly influenced Lao Yan and Jing Jing, and in honor of it, they titled their upcoming exhibition—A Myriad of Rooms—after the essay. The exhibition will be held in Chengdu, Beijing, and Shanghai. “One of these ‘rooms’ means different things for different individuals,” Jing Jing says. “For me, a ‘room’ has multiple meanings. The first, female photographers need a ‘room’ that’s quiet from outside interference and influence, a place that’s theirs and private. This idea of a ‘room’ can also be a spiritual space where they can reflect on self-identity and themselves.
Lao Yan adds, “All of the works shown in the exhibition offer viewers a glimpse into these different rooms, private spaces where a myriad of emotions and viewpoints reside.”
1929 年出版的《一间只属于自己的房间》一书中，英国女作家弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫用文字为女性搭建了一栋“房间”。房间中没有男权社会、以及历史对女性的偏见，倡导了女性独立思考、自我审视、自由生活，成就真我的空间。老严和靓靓受这本书的影响很大，并在随后以《无尽的房间》（A Myriad of Rooms）为题在成都、北京、上海进行一场关于女性摄影作品的巡展。对于此次展览，靓靓说：“‘房间’对于不同人来说有着不同的界定，对我来说，它的意义是双重的：第一，女性摄影师在创作时需要独立的、自我的、私密的空间；第二，‘房间’亦是每位女性摄影师私人叙事的一种意象化的象征符号。” 展览收录了“照镜子大赛”中初选的三十组作品，于 10 月初正式展开。老严接着说道：“每一位女性都应当有自己的房间，这里是自我审视与身份认同的精神空间。这里的每一幅作品都代表了创作者的房间，私酿着自我的情绪，以及对待世界的角度。”
“Our mission for starting was simple,” Jing Jing says. “We believe that the photography world hasn’t always been very welcoming for women; it’s something we’ve experienced ourselves. We just want to push the dial.”
For Jing Jing and Lao Yan, there’s not much difference between being behind the lens or in front of the lens. Miroir Project puts their beliefs to action and reassures women everywhere that they’re free to express themselves, to believe in themselves, to chase after their dreams. Without the shackles of self-doubt, they’ll become that much closer to who they see in the mirror.
A Myriad of Rooms
Kinmirai Hostel Gallery
Building 7, U37 Creative Warehouse,
Shuinianhe South Third Street,
Jinjiang District, Chengdu
Chaoyang District, Beijing
YuanSe Art Space
212, 4th Floor, No.50 Moganshan Road,
Putuo District, Shanghai
无尽的房间 | 照镜子
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Contributor: Pete Zhang
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供稿人: Pete Zhang