Stone Zhu: Fantastic Neon Studio Portraiture

All images by Stone Zhu. Used with permission.

My name is Stone Zhu. Growing up in China, my sense of self as well as my aesthetics were deeply informed by traditional culture, values and art. Culturally we are meditative, introspective, modest, and moody. Strong reds, blacks, and whites fill our artwork, architecture, and sculpture. In traditional painting emptiness is highly regarded and the image is often constrained to the edges of the picture.

In contrast, my experience of Western culture has revealed a frenetic, open, and random quality that is foreign to my sensibilities. The body is regarded with sensuality, idealism, and erotic fantasy. My photographic practice has become a blend of these disparate and distinct cultures. The formal qualities of Chinese art are boldly present while, at the same time, I have felt more able to explore my fascination with the body as an object of beauty and desire.

One of the greatest influences on my work has been theater, both in China and on Broadway. The sharp specificity of a spotlight on an actor in motion across the stage is lost to the human eye, but perfectly captured by the camera. These moments happen in a fraction of a second and are impossible to recreate. These moments are vital to my studio practice. They are symbolic of the inherent temporal nature of photography.

For these photos I used a Hasselblad H5D-60, Impact lights and color gels. For this editorial shoot I worked with a make-up artist, model, and my partner (videographer). The clothes we got from JUJU showroom.

Why did you get into photography?

Photography can freeze the moment and you get to choose what to show to people.

What photographers are your biggest influences?

Lois Greenfield, Chenman, Nick Knight, Tim Walker, Richard Avedon

How long have you been shooting?

Since I had my first camera (Canon 5D2), eight years ago.

Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

I really enjoy shooting.

Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

I feel I’m more a creator. Every time I will have images in my head before I start to shoot, and fashion shoots need lots of planning.

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

I find some inspiration from magazines, books, and online first, then exchange ideas with people I’m going to work with, the makeup artist, hairstylist, etc.

Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio.

My portfolio is about me, it tells people what kind of photographer I am, and shows my stylist of work. It should be different than other photographers.

What made you want to get into your genre?

My first influences was a Chinese fashion photographer whose name is Chen Man. The first time I saw her photos I knew I wanted to be a fashion photographer.

Tell us a bit about the gear you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.

Photography is about light, if you have good light that helps a lot.

What motivates you to shoot?

I enjoy to shoot, but every time when I shoot I get nervous. I feel all the people (model, makeup, hair, stylist ) come to me and they just want to get good photos for their works too. So I have to take good photos for myself and for them too.