“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves … it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” —Susan Sontag, On Photography, quoted by Zhang Hai’er

Born 1957, Guangzhou, Guangdong

A documentary photographer who has worked for Time and other newsmagazines, Zhang Hai’er is drawn to the parts of Chinese life that most people either ignore or never see. Years spent photographing fashionable women and prostitutes introduced him to the world of transvestites. His cross-dressing courtesans stare at the camera boldly, as if wishing or defying the artist to come closer. He knows many of his subjects personally; some he has photographed many times over the years. But his role is that of an observer, and it requires him to stay at a distance. The performers remain confined to the closet-sized spaces of the photo frames, posing alluringly to attract lovers who never appear.

Artist photo: G4 Photos

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