Francesco Gregori Gives Us a Peek at Beijing’s Underground Scene

“Beijing Underground” photos by Francesco Gregori. Used with Creative Commons permission.

So much is out there about Beijing as an important global capital, historical center, and financial district. But as with any city, it’s also home to some vibrant subcultures. All you need to know where and what to look for. In his 2012 documentary project, Italian photographer Francesco Gregori takes us to some gigs, parties, and hangouts to introduce us to some of the colorful faces of the city’s energetic underground scene.

Beijing is hardly among the cities that comes to mind for youth subcultures, more so images of punks, rockers, tattoos, and rebellion (elements from the “rejection” subculture the spread from the west in the 1970s). But with Western influences quickly seeping into China’s cosmopolitan towns in the recent decade, it’s not surprising to find Beijing having its own underground scene. While the subculture came with a message back in the days, Gregori noted that in the case of its presence in the Chinese capital today, “It’s hard to find any message; today, there is only an image.”

“During weekends, some of these young people used to meet up in Wudaokou students’ district, one of the benchmark for Beijing’s punk movement. Here among concerts and Yanjing beer they like to show and exhibit themselves,” he said in his project description. “Their look and grimaces tell us about rebellion, about that past cultural revolution that today can’t be nothing more than a flat taunt. Media have often told us about Chinese post-80s generation. This work gives an ‘image’ on the post-90s one.”

Gregori’s portrait series has a straightforward editorial approach, with the goal of showing us how angst and an edgy slice of Beijing’s youth have picked up this particular western culture and made it their own.

He hasn’t updated in a while, but check out Francesco Gregori’s Behance portfolio to stay updated with his photography projects.