Following the devastating news of photographer Ren Hang’s death last week, creative group Totem Collective hosts a new exhibition in Paris showing the work of the brave and beautiful photographer.
Ren Hang was the cool people’s photographer. His name isn’t immediately recognisable like your Marios or your Jeurgens or your Terrys. No, his work didn’t lend itself to showmanship and hype. His was a quietude, solemnity and bravery that whispered more than shouted, that nudged rather than pushed.
Last week, it was announced that Hang had died, with rumours emerging of suicide. His death, at the age of 29, was confirmed by a spokesperson from the Klein Sun Gallery, and has resulted in tributes and commemorations across social media and the worlds of art, photography and fashion.
Hang is renowned for his nude imagery. It is imagery that is beautiful, raw and bold, rather than gratuitous. He captured melancholic moments – a friend holding onto a branch, caught in the stark light of the flash, or another friend leaning over the bath, his body hanging heavily. Despite its lack of eroticism, his work elicited disapproval from authorities in China, where pornography is illegal. It was, however, lauded by many others, and the photographer held exhibitions in cities such as New York, Paris, Bangkok, Athens and Vienna, and worked for the likes of big fashion brands like GQ China, Gucci and Dazed.
Like his images, the photographer was open and candid about his relationship with depression. He posted poetry on his social media and blogging accounts documenting his negative feelings and struggles. Before his death, he is reported to have been suffering with intense depression.
At the end of 2016, Hang shot a look book for global creative group Totem Collective. Unreleased images from the shoot and from the collaborative BAO photo book are now set to be displayed in an exhibition by Totem Collective, where audiences can also hear some of the photographer’s favourite music and connect with other fans of this groundbreaking work.