Leslie Zhang’s photos are a poetic portrait of contemporary Chinese culture. Originally from Yangzhou, now based in Shanghai, his painterly images bring together memories of growing up in China with influences from east Asian photography more broadly, translated through elements as deceptively simple as stylistic flower arrangements and bold, graphic colours reminiscent of post-Cultural Revolution China.
Specific references aren’t what drive the imagemaker’s work though, rather an evocation of a mood. “What I do is recreate these romanticised memories using photography,” he says. Small details – taken from things as banal as typography seen on the street, to cantopop or mandopop music videos – are pieced together by Zhang in surprising compositions that feel timeless; at once current and reflective.
“I try to contain everything in a tight little universe of my coherent thoughts on beauty,” he continues. It’s this singular vision that traverses the traditional borders between eastern and western culture so seamlessly. Like, for example, when he shot figures from Shanghai’s local clubbing scene for Dazed’s winter 2018 issue, or translated the story of designer Simone Rocha’s Hong Kong heritage with Dazed creative director Robbie Spencer for her issue of A Magazine Curated By.
Fascinated by flora and fauna, Zhang is starting a new project on Chinese gardens this year, and looks forward to working on a second photography book.