We’re not 100% sure because we haven’t really kept track, but Hong Kong photographer Lean Lui, who turned 20 years old last 29 September, may just be the youngest photographer we’ve featured so far: “I use photography as if it were a secret diary. It’s kind of personal for me because there’s always something about me in my pictures, like my views and questions on the world, my own life experience, the people I love… When you look at my pictures you are actually looking at me, very deep inside.”
Lean says she started photographing seriously when she was 19 (so, very recently), but she recalls using a camera for the first time when she was 6: “I was inspired by the American Next Top Model tv show. I would set a theme for the images and use my sisters and cousins as models. That’s how I started shooting.” On her very 20th birthday, her first photobook 19.29 was released: “My birthday is on September 29th. I made this book when I was 19, so 19.29 actually means 20th, a number between teen and adult, green and mature, the beginning and the end. This book combines my life and my passion for photography—it’s the best present I could get.”
“My photos are always dreamy and abstract and full of metaphors. I always want my pictures to be not only beautiful but also carry a meaning, and by meaning I don’t necessarily mean a specific message—it can be an atmosphere, an emotion. Every time I press the shutter I have it very clear in my mind why I’m pressing it.”
Lean obtains the vintage aesthetics that characterize her images by experimenting with expired film and photo chemicals at the time of developing. “I’m not sure why but I like this kind of aesthetics ever since I was a little girl. I’ve always been obsessed with old stuff, I admire the beauty of their age. Maybe I was influenced by ‘wabi-sabi’, a Japanese aesthetics and philosophy that accepts aging and the blemishes that it brings, holding that the true essence of beauty lies in authenticity.”
Besides her own life experiences, Lean is influenced not so much by the work of other photographers (“To be honest, I don’t know much about photography“) but by avant-garde painters: “I like the dreamy color tones used by Monet and the surrealism of Dali and Magritte.” She also enjoys reading and drawing, but her most important influence was her mom and “the sensitive heart she gave me.” About the last photobook she bought, “I am bit ashamed to say it’s a book of photos of Sakaguchi Kentaro, a Japanese male model. To be frank, I bought it not because I liked the photos but because I like him. I know that as a photographer it’s not a great reason to buy a book of photos but I think I’m still just a little girl most of the time, especially when I see a boy I like.”
Lean’s #threewordsforphotography are:
Fearless. Mystery. Self.