Both a creative mind and up-to-date technical knowledge are qualities that a good photographer is expected to possess, regardless of the way in which beauty is captured. While most on-camera expressions of beauty come from the characteristics of the object itself, photographer Xiaohan Lu generated a full scenario reflecting her in-depth thinking towards social problems.
Q: Would you briefly introduce yourself?
A: I majored in Mass Communication at Purdue University for my undergraduate studies. After graduation, I worked as an account executive at Saatchi & Saatchi for a year, an advertising company located in Shanghai for a year. I got involved in many commercial shootings and worked with lots of outstanding photographers, which triggered my interest in photography. While working there, I got admitted to the Master Program of Digital Photography at School of Visual Arts. Since my graduation in 2022, I’ve been working in both Digital Marketing and Photography. My main photography content includes clothing collections in E-commerce brands such as Shein and beaded accessories brand Beadaholic NYC. I also work as a freelance photographer for independent designers and influencers.
Q: What’s the main idea of Premiere Mediocre?
A: Premiere Mediocre is a term that I learned from a book, which refers to the phenomenon of people presenting themselves as fancy or glamorous on social media but are actually different in real life. I got this inspiration when I found out that many girls didn’t get as dressed up as they were on social media when they came to their photoshoots. But the image they’ve built of themselves online made people feel like that’s how they look every day, which inspired me to think that their real life may not be as fancy and complicated as we thought it was. What people saw was the curated and stylized version of themselves.
Q: How did you come up with the layout of the scene and the presentation of the theme?
A: Firstly, I broke the theme into two parts: premiere and mediocre. The former could be achieved with proper outfit and makeup, but the question was how to visualize the latter. The word ‘mediocre’ stands for moderate or average quality, not particularly good or bad. I found some references to use in my research and landed on the idea of utilizing some day-to-day food that would be found in people’s daily lives, like a sausage or a sandwich. Instead of adding those as a separate section of the scene, I wanted to find a way to integrate it into the scene. And the best way to do that may be replacing some elements with the food.
Q: What’s the message that you’re trying to convey in Banality of Evil?
A: ‘Banality of Evil’ refers to the idea that ordinary people commit atrocities without awareness, care, or choice. And I used it as a reflection of cyber violence. Many of us have been bullied or have bullied others on the internet. I want to remind people how important their behavior is because sometimes our words can hurt others without us even realizing it. I chose to have the black shade of a person used in the scene rather than a real person because I wanted to highlight the idea that any of us can get bullied and thus we need to be careful of what we say.
(From left to right, Vicky, Katy, Missie, Premiere Mediocre by Xiaohan Lu)
Q: Do you think photographers are artists or a medium of how art is portrayed?
A: This is hard to define because each photographer is different. For me, I love reading and I pay a lot of attention to social problems as well. It’s very common and easy for people to lose themselves when being put in a group. They tend to lose the ability to think independently and will unconsciously follow others’ behaviors. And that’s something I want to warn people about. But for other photographers that have a different focus such as architecture, nature, or street looks, which are also wonderful themes and I don’t see anything wrong with it. We all just have our way of telling stories.
Q: How will you define your style?
A: I don’t have a specific routine that I follow each time when I set up the scenes. But an overall commonality of my style is that I always have great emphasis on the use of colors. For example, I will try to put together as many images of different colors as possible in the background setting as well as a wild look consisting of exaggerated makeup and accessories. And lots of down to earth components can be found in my creation because I love mapping realistic social issues. People can definitely tell that I’m not a minimalist from my photographs.
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Images provided by Xiaohan Lu