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Photography (MA)

Bowei Yang

Bowei Yang(b.1994 Hangzhou China) is a photographer based in Beijing and London. By mainly focusing on photographing the Chinese teenage queer group, his work documents the contemporary teenage queers living in China combined with staged memories of his childhood, and he also tries to query the self-identity in awareness of diverse collective identifications and group traumas. His works are mostly inspired by Chinese philosophy, literature, and are constructed to ponder the reality of documents through the photographic media.

He received his Bachelor's Degree in Photography from Beijing Film Academy in 2017 and entered the Royal College of Art in London in 2019 to continue his pursuit in photography. He was named as one of the Foam Talents 2021, and was the RCA Laureate for the Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents(2020). He has exhibited his work internationally, including in: China, France, Japan, the UK. His work has been published in: Foam Magazine, Modern Weekly Style Magazine, IGNANT Magazine, China Daily, among others. 


Recently he is, together with Xiner Xu, Ruijing Ge, Weilian Zou and Chao Zhang, opening the "cusp.", a fresh alternative space in Hangzhou, China, mainly focusing on image-based art practitioners. They provide opportunities for emerging artists, produce talks of art books, and perform their opinions on understanding images.

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Photography (MA)

“There isn’t any other origin for beauty than that of a wound, singular, different for each, hidden or visible, that all mankind keeps within itself, that it preserves and to which it retires when it wishes to leave the world for temporary but profound solitude. (Jean Genet, 2003)” 

In the project Soft Thorn, I tried to fictionalize a collective portrait by collaging landscapes, staged moments, and portraits with my projections. The concept of a collaged collective identity became the main collision in my practice. While I was searching for the approach to construct a collective identity of my group, I somehow found trauma could translate the vague line between the self and others, individual identity, and group identification. Then I started to focus on how traumas, collective or personal, could unveil the relationship between two different but closely connected identities. In the work, “The fifth of July riot in Xinjiang”, I wrote a brief description of the riot that happened in Xinjiang on the fifth of July in 2009 on the edge of a piece of broken porcelain which also could be translated as “a piece of broken china.” The fifth of July, which is the date of my birth, and the same date the riot happened, by narrating these two uncorrelated events, I was intended to query the belongingness of self-identity, and I was pondering about the veritable concern between individual status and national destiny. 

If Spring Could Feel Ache, the project I started in 2019, talked about the masculinity in Chinese adolescent queer group juxtaposed with a retrospective thinking towards the belongingness of queer identity in different social systems. Meanwhile, the works I made in the project were also meant to respond to the contemporary Chinese queer group on the tache connecting the collective traumas and individual identity. “Aggregation of dreams, a conversation about the collective identity in China, 2019”, a work from the project, depicts a scene that butterflies are attracted by meat and some butterflies are stitched into the meat. From my perspective, utilizing an allegorical and metaphorical method to translate reality is a way to resist photography becoming an index towards reality. Somehow, the staged scenes and installations I made also become a resonant voice of my portraits. The ambiguity in-between domestic identity and national destiny in my directed scene also relate to the other introspective portraits, which also talk about the ambiguous masculinity of teen Chinese queers. 

As the quote in the beginning, Jean Genet mentioned how traumas constructed the realm of oneself and became the sanctuary of an immaterial world. Traumas, as a psychic trace of mind, also had been digested to become the testimonies and fragments of identity in my work. Like Sontag used to say that a photograph was a piece of time, trauma somehow was a piece of personal or collective belongingness. 

Left: "Mum's prayers and the thorns, 2021"

from If Spring Could Feel Ache, digital silver print, 16*24cm, 2021.

“Aggregation of dreams, a conversation about the collective identity in China.” Photograph; C-type print; 25*20cm; 2020
Selected works in the exhibition — Jan, 2020, The Art Academy London Space
“Flower petals pinned on the window” — Photograph; C-type print; 16.7*20cm; 2020
“Wong in his pet bed” — Photograph and walnut wood; C-type print; 16.7*20cm; 2020
“The fifth of July riot in Xinjiang, written on a broken China.” — Ceramics and walnut wood; 10*12*3cm; 2019
“The broken vase(China),2020” — Photograph; C-type print; 28*35cm; 2021
“Wong lying on the bed, 2019” — Photograph; C-type print; 20*24cm; 2020
Selected works in the exhibition — Dec, 2019, Red Stock Studio, Royal College of Art
“The sealed furniture toys, 2020” — Photograph; C-type print; 45*35cm; 2021
“Tommy in front of his paiting, 2020” — Photograph and walnut wood; C-type print; 16.7*20cm; 2020
“The Street Lights; Jingbao, 2019” — Photographs; C-type prints; 33.4*20cm; 2019
“Wang lying on his bed, 2019” — Photograph and walnut wood; C-type print; 24*20cm; 2019
“The aching bed by the river, 2021” — Photograph; C-type print; 62.5*50cm; 2021 \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
“Li buries the white petals, the aching bed by the river; Caltrops and glass fragments.” — Photographs and black walnut; 102.5*75*5cm; 2021
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“Words written on the blockers of a collapsing building, 2019” — Photograph; Digital silver print; 100*80cm; 2019
“Tommy and the broken mug, 2020” — Photograph; Digital silver print; 64*80cm; 2020
“Ceramic fragments and petals, 2020” — Photograph; Giclee print; 120*150*5cm; 2020
“The kissing trees, Caltrops and petals; William in front of the window.” — Photographs; Giclee print; 220*80*5cm; 2021
“Caltrops and petals, 2021” — Photograph; Giclee print; 120*80cm; 2021
”The kissing tree and butterflies, 2021“ — Photograph; Giclee print; 80*100*5cm and 120*150*5cm; 2021
“William in front of the window, 2019” — Photograph; Giclee print; 80*100*5cm; 2021
Details of the work — from the ”The kissing tree and butterflies, 2021“
“The chastity locks and butterfly wings; Caltrops and glass fragments; Liu and the cage.” — Photographs; Giclee prints; 220*80*5cm; 2021
“The chastity locks and butterfly wings, 2021” — Photograph and grey acrylic; Giclee print; 64*80*5cm; 2021 \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
“Liu and the cage, 2021” — Photograph; Giclee print; 64*80*5cm; 2021
“Caltrops and glass fragments, 2021” — Photograph; Giclee print; 2021


Handmade photo-book, hard cover with silver blocking title.


The front look and the back look.
“The cherry tree in the Bttersea Park, 2020” — from Trace the Tears, 2020.
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"Shape of tears, 2019" — from Trace the Tears, 2020.
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Risograph on cotton paper, and binded by hemp rope.