Same-sex relationships have been an accepted part of Chinese culture for centuries. It was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, under the influence of the West, that homophobia became more prevalent; and under Mao, homosexuality was criminalized. By the turn of the last millennium, same-sex relationships were once again legal, and by 2001, homosexuality had been declassified as a mental disorder. Polling suggests that the younger generation embraces sexual diversity and LGBTQ rights. But the stigma against queer people still remains. Recent reports from China have noted government attempts to clamp down on LGBTQ media and events, and numerous citizens are still being sent by family members to conversion therapy.
Photographer Sarah Mei Herman first started photographing young queer people and their personal relationships during an artist residency in Xiamen in Fujian Province on China’s southeastern coast. As she explored what drew these people together, she herself built up close friendships with her subjects and, even after her residency had ended, returned to Xiamen to photograph them, capturing the way they have changed over the course of a number of years.
The sixteenth entry in The New Press’s worldwide LGBTQ photobook series, Solace is a stunning collection of full-color photos in a beautiful, affordable volume. It provides a portrait of young people navigating the ambiguities of friendship and sexuality as they enter adulthood and grapple with what it means to be queer in modern-day China.
Solace was designed by Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios (EWS).