When was the last time you saw an Asian American face in a fashion campaign? Was it months ago, or years? Or maybe even never before?
Photographer Andrew Kung, who’s best known for his documentary project “The Mississippi Delta Chinese: An Audiovisual Narrative,” is here to change that. Inspired by 1900s fashion photography, the Brooklyn-based artist recently released a new series titled “To Be Seen,” which features a refreshingly diverse variety of Asian American models in both intimate black-and-white portraits and lurid, stylized outfits that defy gender conventions. From the image of a model defiantly tossing back waves of hair, to a compilation of colorfully made-up eyes that gaze directly at the viewer, the series elevates the very aspects of Asian bodies that are typically overlooked or obscured in popular media.
“Because I’ve been inspired by 1900s fashion photographers like Horst and Penn, I wanted the aesthetics to be dramatic, yet simplistic. The talent they used, however, were largely white models; I wanted to reimagine the aesthetics of their imagery with Asian American models,” Kung says via email. “Asian Americans are often viewed as a monolith not just in fashion, but in all walks of life—we’re seen to all have the same personalities, to all look alike, to all be the model minority. This project is a rebellion against that monolithic view.”
Filmmaker Brian Chu also worked with Kung to produce a short film that takes viewers behind the scenes of this groundbreaking series. With commentary from both Kung and his models, the film offers an exclusive peek into pandemic photoshoots and the motivation behind “To Be Seen.”