Ren Hang, one of the leading lights of the new generation of Chinese photographers, despite enduring censorship and intimidation from the authorities throughout his career, has died at the age of 29, his gallerist has confirmed.
Ren Hang was arrested many times for his sexually explicit, joyously celebratory photography. Although he was globally renowned, he never gained the recognition he deserved in his home country, in part because he was repeatedly denied the opportunity to display his work in Beijing and throughout China.
Championed by Ai Wei Wei, and talked of as China’s answer to Ryan McGinley, Ren Hang’s photography was highly explicit, featuring nude group and solo portraits of men and women often contorted into highly performative positions. They were not models, but his friends, and increasingly, his fans, often shot in his tiny high-rise apartment. “I usually shoot my friends,” he once said. “Because strangers make me nervous.”
Ren Hang endured a long battle with depression throughout his life, an experience he would often document on his website, sometimes in the form of poetry, under a menu item titled My Depression.