Photographer Diana Chao believes in the power of collaboration towards Asian representation both in front of and behind the camera. She shared insights on her inspiring series based on Asian Folklores, and the importance of creating towards change.
Fine Art photography is supposed to be based on creating something beautiful, and as a Chinese artist living in the West, I felt like people who look like me had disappeared from art altogether.
The art world is so heavily dominated by white models and talent, and work that features Asian models is usually done in an “exotic” location just for show – there is no background, no reference to what makes those locations so special; in the process of trying to appeal to wide audiences, our culture is lost.
In response to this issue, I created a series of photographs based on the folklores of my own and other Asian cultures. Each image is based on the stories of the artists, models, and crew that collaborated to create it. I believe each image should feature the culture of the specific model, because diversity is about more than just appearances – we have unique perspectives because of the stories of our culture and our homes.
I collaborate across cultures to show that while we are different, we share the same values of love and empathy.
I want people from East Asian backgrounds to be inspired to look into their own culture and be proud of their heritage. We should embrace it. It is what makes us magical.
“We shouldn’t try to conform – we should use our history to inform others.”
Being around other cultures has helped me understand others – yes – but it has mostly helped me understand the parts of my own culture that I never thought of as unique and special.
I hope when someone looks at this series they realize the importance of bringing unique backgrounds together. Lost stories should not remain buried treasure. To me, being able to unearth them with art and infuse them with culture is empowerment. Liberation.