"The first thing that God has revealed to me is this: God accepts me as an atheist. Therefore, I want to stop before him in supplication and prayer." – Han Meichao
"My art shows my personal growth and my understanding for life and society. Since 2006, the subjects of my photo art have been people around me who I know well, most of them in a special group – my gay friends. What attracted me from the start was their slightly secretive, unusual lifestyle, promiscuous, frivolous. I became part of the group myself. Through photography, I wanted to try to understand what these young gay men did; how their lifestyle differed from the socially accepted 'norm'.
"But as I developed on a personal level and my photo art became deeper, great changes occurred in my way of viewing things. I discovered that for many of them, homosexuality was more a matter of choice than a given thing. I agree with Foucault that gender can be seen as a social construct. Those I photographed were forced to live a life outside normality, without sunlight, but they were the most idealistic, they openly refused to cooperate with and submit to unjust regulations imposed by the authorities. They took control of the freedom they chose themselves. They had a passion for life.
"I want to document my attitude to life and theirs in a turbulent time. In my photos, freedom is the main theme, in contrast to the repression of the system.
"Making homosexuality the theme for the photography, making it public, is in itself risky. I know I'm subjecting myself to the danger of being marginalised. But I believe in the value of what I do, and I have to stand for my own principles, regardless of risk. Therefore, I want to highlight and display the value in what is currently relegated to a dark borderland, and allow it to be incarnated as a part of societal discourse."
The piece The First Thing God Revealed to Me uses the form of traditional Chinese scroll painting to create an altar. The models in the photo are his boyfriend and himself. The roll itself is very light; the altar is a place with great weight:
"Uniting the light and the heavy is a contradiction, which in the picture also becomes an extension of my own struggle and contradictions. One moment, what is close at hand, physical enjoyment, lightness of heart; the next, inner pressure, melancholy. I feel piety before God, but also a constant sense of guilt. I want to kneel, but I don't know whom to kneel before.
"The first thing that God has revealed to me is this: God accepts me as an atheist. Therefore, I want to stop before him in supplication and prayer."
Note: The text is based on previously unpublished notes by Han Chao from 2011 and 2012 and my own interviews with him (Si Han, Curator)
Han Meichao 韓美鈔
1985: born in Fuxin, Liaoning
2009: graduated from the Photography Dept., Lu Xun Art Academy
Lives and works in Beijing