An Rong Xu is a New York based photographer. A regular contributor to the New York Times, Xu is known for his luscious, vibrant photographs. Often taken in night time, Xu’s images feel raw and dreamy in ways that could make you feel a bit dizzy. Focusing his empathic eye on the individuals that occupy his frame, Xu always manages to catch a fleeting feeling from his subjects.
How did you get into photography?
In high school, I took a photography class, and the teacher had no idea what they were teaching, because they didn’t know much about photography, due to budget cuts. Since I didn’t learn anything from the class, I ended up finding myself more interested and wanting to make photographs.
How did you end up in New York?
When I was two my mom and I traveled on bus, boat, and plane and eventually wound up in New York, been here since.
Tell us a little more about “New Romantics.”
New Romantics was this idea born out of frustration with explaining to people what kind of feelings and categories my photography fell into. When I graduated from school, I was still trying to establish my voice and that was when I delved into cinema, watched a lot of movies and realized where my sensibilities were. I found myself interested in the moody, the potential of moments, the colors, and how my view of the world is steeped in this idea of the romantic. So when it came time, my ideas on the romantic have been renewed and I branded it, New Romantics.
What brought you to Taiwan for this most recent series of images?
The first time I traveled to Taiwan was when I went to work with a client, and through them I was fortunate enough to spend two months of the year in Taiwan in 2016. While in Taipei I began to really connect with the pace and the culture of the city, but further every street I walked down felt like the set for a movie I watched growing up and also into my maturation as an artist. So as with everything I am intrigued by, I photograph it, a lot.
You are an Asian-American New Yorker — how has your background affected the way you perceive Asian cities in your travels and work?
As an Asian American New Yorker, I grew up in a way that has created a hodge podge identity. The only ideas of what places in Asia looked like were through Asian cinema, specifically Hong Kong, and television. I am fortunate enough to speak Cantonese and am able to get by okay in parts of Asia and that had really helped in understanding the cities I do visit. But going into the cities I’ve visited has always been like my weird way of visiting all the places I’ve seen in my childhood through television and movies.
Can you elaborate a little on the relationship between travel and photography in your work?
When I first began photography, I thought I’d never be able to make photographs outside of New York City, I’m so glad I was wrong. As I’ve traveled more especially in Asia I feel more connected to my core of being. In a sense through photographs I’ve made while abroad, I’ve found my voice in New Romantics.
What is next for “New Romantics?”
At the moment New Romantics is coming out with a zine and we’re making three issues of the zine. Each individual zine is handmade and designed by my good friend Ramona Todoca. New Romantics will continually manifest itself in my work as long as I continue creating work and will be part of everything I do.
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This Feature is part of COLLECTION #01: “IN THE CITY”