Ye Fan got her first camera in 2016. Now her photos are in ‘Vogue’

Photosensible is a RADII column that focuses on Chinese photographers documenting modern trends, youth and society in China. This month, we feature Ye Fan, a New York-based photographer whose work has appeared in several major publications.

Ye Fan never dreamed of being a professional photographer. She had a good job — a awesome work, in fact, working in entertainment PR in his hometown of Shanghai. His career trajectory until 2016 was, by all accounts, a success. But she wanted something different.

When Fan made the “reckless” decision to study photography in New York at age 30, it was not in the hope of succeeding, but as a gap year away from the monotony of an already well-established career. Until then, she hadn’t even owned a camera.

From the ‘TA’ project

Fan studied photography at Columbia University School of Visual Arts, where she interned with renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz and continued her studies at the International Center of Photography Photojournalism and Creative Practice Program.

Six years after arriving overseas for her “year”, Fan is still in New York. Now you can find his photos in major publications like Vogue Italy, Harper’s Bazaar, people magazine, LensCultureand much more.

“I feel like I’m very lucky because when I started photography school I was like ‘there’s no way I’m going to be a photographer, are you kidding me?'” said Fan. “There are thousands of wedding photographers, editorial photographers – how do you fight for attention? It’s impossible.”

But the hope that she would defy the odds always lingered, and despite her doubts, that’s exactly what she did. Public relations, she says, is a thing of the past.

From the ‘TA’ project

Of all her work so far, she considers ‘TA’ (她) the most honest and personal. (The Chinese character 她 translates to “she” in English, although the pinyin your is gender neutral.) TA started as a school assignment and lasted for years, with Fan exploring the lives and experiences of Chinese-born women in New York, like her, through her Leica lens.

“Photography, to me, if you’re not authentic and honest, it will show through in your work,” Fan says.

“There are times when you feel extremely lonely in New York City. The city can really get to you. So, I thought, why not find a group of… people in my place – in similar situations.

From the ‘TA’ project

Most of her subjects work in fashion, and she grants them full control over their clothes and accessories.

“I will always encourage them to wear what they feel most comfortable in, she says — clothes that represent “how they interpret modern feminism. And they always end up wearing their own designs.

From the ‘TA’ project

The project was a resounding success – some of the prints have even been purchased by a gallery in Munich, Germany, where they are on display until June 2022.

From the ‘TA’ project

Fan describes her filming process as slow and intimate. “We talk, then we shoot pictures. And then we will rest, we will talk and we will shoot frames. I kind of want to capture the energy and the synergy,” she says.

From the ‘TA’ project

She came to see “TA” as a kind of art therapy – both for herself and for her subjects.

The work evokes “a feeling that you are not alone. You have ears that listen, and so do they, from me,” Fan told RADII. “You don’t realize how just a nice, warm conversation can change your feelings. It really is. When you’re having a tough day, or things aren’t going really well, it’s truly an uplifting energy and an uplifting experience.

From the ‘TA’ project

Eventually, she plans to compile the photos on his website as well as a series of 10 questions she asks each model.

Feminism, intimacy and the individual spirit are recurring themes in her work, and she is careful to stay true to her personal style. “I want to make sure my audience and the outside world understand my work and my style in a very short time,” she says.

From the ‘TA’ project

But Fan’s lineup of projects is far from monolithic: his latest attempt is a long-running, documentary-style project starring fine-dining restaurant Eleven Madison Park – voted the best restaurant in the world in 2017.

Eleven Madison Park

Fan captures the delicate dance between the kitchen and dining room crews, from the busiest hours to the breaks. It’s both seemingly chaotic and remarkably orderly.

Eleven Madison Park

True to her visual spirit, the series, now in its fifth month, incorporates both color and black-and-white photography, and she shoots with Polaroid and film cameras, in addition to her Leica.

Eleven Madison Park

“I feel like it really takes a village, a team, to do what they do. I hope anyone who embodies team spirit, anyone working in a community or anyone anyone pursuing creative work will find it interesting,” she says.

Eleven Madison Park

Exploring his art and his creative process, another theme comes to mind: Fan draws his inspiration from her subjects, whether women like her or world-class restaurateurs.

“[Eleven Madison Park] changes the menus four times a year and also has weekly tastings – meetings where the whole team thinks about the new menu… It’s really amazing how things come together, the consistency of it,” says Fan .

“For me, as a creative, I appreciate that. I hope I can embody that consistency in my photography as well.

“Having the will to push yourself for renewal, I think is actually very difficult.”

Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park

Fan plans to return to China one day, but her work in New York is not yet complete. “I only started my career here in New York in 2019, so I really want to spend a few more years here to see where it goes,” she says.

All images courtesy of Ye Fan

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