Capturing and highlighting the different traits of all, from that rebellious and unruly bad boy to your classically poised girl, how very Breakfast Club, everyone has their own exclusive temperament. Let’s talk millennial Urban China street cult.
Still in high school, SHIN! Youth (膨胀青年|péngzhàngqīngnián in Chinese, literally “expanding youth”) founder Rebecca had already found her calling. Rallying the fashionably and photography devoted troops, she together with a wave of friends had already made one attempt at setting up a model club, any comparisons to the U.S. UN versions might not actually be in order, but this “incident” did not receive the school’s seal of approval. Let alone its unconditional support.
A movement is born.
A MODERNISTIC AND INDIVIDUALISTIC CAUSE
Rebecca and her rebels with a modernistic and individualistic cause simply went on to set up a more “underground” organization. Fight the power, we say. Over the course of the past decade, many of China’s tweens and teens have been starting to feel the itch and urge to wholly express themselves, a sentiment resonating markedly strongly with the post-95 students.
Going from night to day in true high school style, aka ditching the tracksuit uniform and breaking out the fashion (tech) forward goodies, their chosen styles were the real-life manifestation of a new Chinese generation introducing a newly developing psyche and adopting, at long last, a culture of (healthy) selfdom.
Although none of the students had really had the chance to stream their contempo consciousness to the outside world in high school, Rebecca for one did not let go of her “incandescent” incentive and simply started up “UIC Street Beat”, recording China’s developing street cult on a mobile phone. The project caused a stir at school, with positive response ruling the hallways.
Rebecca’s had swung open the hefty school gates to a career in street photography.
THE STATE OF STREET AFFAIRS
In the illustrious words of Rebecca, street photography is all about that holy trinity:
- The relationship between people and environment. Capturing street style is more about the relationship between characters and their surroundings, including the flow of willow branches, the wind, Beijing architecture, colors, the people in the background, lighting, and so on. These are the key factors to successful street photography which additionally constitute an important part of the screen;
- The natural state of people and space. When the models are photographed within a limited space/setting, they cannot help but become cautious because being indoors gives people a feeling of limited ability. You may view the art invented by Bill Cunningham as one big fashion show taking place in open air, but the twisted curl that sets us street photogs apart is that we do not take on board with us the so-called “fashion blockbuster poses”. What’s more, the model in her natural state [cue David A.], including the natural light, is vastly different from one working on set. The characters can move freely; they can fall in line with the daily feel of and on the streets. Planet Earth II exits the stage;
- The streets have the power. They have the power to capture someone on camera as if they were inadvertently walking by; it’s raw, real and, first and foremost, a non-ruse.
Creativity in “street media”, just like in “regular” photography, requires many a brainstorming sesh, storyboards and mood-schwunging. With China’s street photography on the rise like a house on fire, any true feature stories in the niche to this day remain few and far between.
SHIN! Youth thus accompanies their pics with the occasional model Q&A, talking personal style faves, evaluating certain fashion phenomena taking place on the Mainland, dishing the deets on their daily do’s and don’ts or discussing their No.1 fashion icon.
The list of questions engages the audience and increases the viewer’s awareness and understanding of China’s younger generations in the 21st Century.
TWENTY EQUALS NON-CONFORMITY
Street photography media outlets, street photographers and influencers just clicking away have made for a very crowded pond in the past two years. SHIN! Youth has opted to keep with the beats of the streets on a purely fashionable level. Moreover, the team has grown into something more than a mere street style media outlet; photography is only one dot on the visual spectrum.
As far as SHIN! is concerned, the street shots are just way way of conveying the “young spirits” of China to the outside world; along the same lines as “F*CKING YOUNG!”Magazine, one might say. Rebecca and her team apply a variety of visual practices to showcase certain cultural trends and attitudes among the post-95s. Not only does the platform serve as a cultural recorder, it documents the inner voice of a generation expressed through outerwear.
This group of 20-somethings represents the future of China. And the future is calling for non-conformist individuality and free expression of the Self. From every angle.
VISUALIZING YOUR MESSAGE
Fashion for Rebecca is all about the brave expression of oneself. As the times evolve, their definitions of fashion to are not the same. From the SHIN! point of view, “old” fashion has disappeared and a new understanding of fashion has entered 21st Century China. Rebecca points out, “It’s no longer about being tall, it’s no longer about ‘just’ that brand name, it’s no longer about ‘just’ that fashion editorial. The new fashion is grounded, it’s public. It is a style which, regardless of age, background, gender, region or religion, represents a purified attitude”. You might even argue that fashion and vision in se are not linked given the visual side of things is only one way of expression. Yet fashion relies on visual transmission of information.
In previous years, the SHIN! street shots centered around the look and the details. Nowadays, the team opts to pay more attention to each individual. They have taken a rather more “street magazine” approach to their photography, embodying different themes at a time such as “big, bold and beautiful,” “1.50 meters and a 9 look”,… The works.
The SHIN! Youth street photography slogan is “Young, intoxicating, congenial rebellion”. What Rebecca and her rebels advocate is to allow everyone to be true to themselves because you are only granted a limited time of youth.
The SHIN! initiative has the power to help those post-95s find their groove and enjoy the swell. So speak up now, my twenty-something kittykats, and make sure that brazen street cult offers only a snapshot of what the future may hold for China’s younger generations.