On university campuses, the female dormitory is one of the most mysterious and private places, at least for male students. Every day, female students walk out of the building with adorable makeup and different styles of outfits. What’s behind the “women only” sign?
Huang Yan, a 24-year-old graduate student from Guangxi University, shot a series of photos, revealing the everyday life of college girls in their dormitories. Her work won the bronze prize in the China 15th International Photographic Art Exhibition female category.
Huang Yan has been interested in photography ever since she started university. Majoring in journalism, she has photography assignments every now and then. But in contrast to her peers, who think the photoshoots are boring and tiring, she finds them interesting and rewarding.
“I like to photograph ordinary things and see how they are transformed into something extraordinary through my lens,” she says. Therefore, she sometimes works for hours on just one photo to get it the way she wants.
Her mother remembers one time when she was taking a photo of a wild flower. She squatted there for an entire afternoon, trying different angles and waiting for the right light to get the perfect shot.
Inspired by peers
Huang participated in the China 15th International Photographic Art Exhibition when she was in the second year of her postgraduate degree. “I’ve spent six years on campus, so I wanted to embody college girls and dormitory life in my female themed photoshoot,” she says.
In her eyes, college girls are feminine, glamorous and unique, especially those who were born in the 1990s. “They’re willing to show themselves, therefore during the photoshoot, they seldom feel uncomfortable or restrained,” she says.
Such cooperative “models” encouraged Huang. In two months time, she took 1,600 photos. Her favorite photo is of a girl reading a novel on her cell phone. “She was curled up in a chair, the soft light shining on her smooth skin. I was drawn to the tranquil atmosphere and feminine character,” Huang says. So she started taking photos, from the right, the left, standing on a chair, trying to find the right angle. Finally, she captured the scene the way she wanted it.
Making a statement
Huang Yan’s work unexpectedly became an Internet hit after she won the bronze prize in the exhibition. Some criticized her for privacy invasion, but more praised her for capturing the essence of female dormitories.
“I’m glad they see my work this way,” Huang says. “My goal was to record the hallmarks of our time. In 20 years or even a century, people will be able to see what college life was like in our age through my photos.”