Opening Doors for Women

Jia Zhangke, Extract of "Peacock, Peacock", 2022.

From the creation of the Jimei x Arles Women Photographers Award to the evolution of women’s representation in Chinese advertising, Doors featured Chinese women in the arts, culture and society in general throughout Women’s History Month of March 2022.

#1 Jimei x Arles Women Photographers Award

The Jimei x Arles Women Photographers Award was created by Bérénice Angremy and Victoria Jonathan in 2017. It is the first award of its kind in China. The Jimei x Arles Women Photographers Award rewards young female Chinese photographers through a RMB30,000 grant and a significant media coverage of their work, pushing therefore the door of the international art scene.  

The first three laureates had a solo exhibition at the Rencontres d’Arles and the first two editions were supported by Madame Figaro and Kering.

Guo Yingguang “The Bliss of Conformity” (2017)
Guo Yingguang, “Untitled”. From the series “The Bliss of Conformity”, 2016

Winner of the 2017 Jimei x Arles-Madame Figaro Women Photographers Award, Guo Yingguang mainly worked as a photojournalist for Reuters, China Daily and other media. 

The series The Bliss of Conformity started from an investigation of the Chinese social phenomenon of “leftover women”, a term designating the women staying single after their 30s. The issue in turn triggered Guo Yingguang’s attention to “the blind date park” and the contemporary custom of “arranged marriages”. 

Read our full interview with Guo Yingguang here or find out more about Guo Yingguang’s work on her website.

Pixy Liao, “Experimental Relationship” (2018)
Pixy Liao, “Start Your Day with a Good Breakfast Together”, 2009. Avec l’autorisation de l’artiste.

Born and raised in Shanghai, Pixy Liao currently lives in New York City. Her photographs, sculptures and videos explore, with humor and bright colors, the issue of identity and gender, and question the conventions and stereotypes around womanhood, relationships and couples through her series Experimental Relationship and For Your Eyes only.  

“In her work, she stages photographs with her Japanese boyfriend, Moro, to explore how national culture influences and dictates interactions in a romantic relationship. In her photographs, Liao often portrays herself in a dominant role, while her boyfriend assumes positions of submission. […]Liao structures her images to appear often above her boyfriend, looking down on him from above, or fully clothed while he is naked. These subtle staging’s intelligently reverse “expected” gender roles in the image.”

Holly Roussell for the Rencontres d’Arles website.

Read our full interview with Pixy Liao here or find out more about Pixy Liao’s work on her website.

Luo Yang, “Youth” (2019)
Luo Yang, “Wang Yanyun”, 2016. Série « Girls ». Avec l’autorisation de l’artiste.

Born in 1984, Luo Yang belongs to the post-maoist generation that grew in the disruptions of the Chinese reform and opening up economic reform.

Her portraits depict an emerging Chinese youth culture that defies imposed expectations and stereotypes. Her work is a testament to her subjects’ individuality and personality. Femininity, gender, identity: she reflects the deep changes taking place in China today. For her new series “Young”, Luo Yang captures the urban cool of the Chinese generation born in the 1990s and early 2000s. They are seemingly well anchored in the times yet sit in total opposition to mainstream currents vibrating through young Chinese society today.

Read our full interview with Luo Yang here or find out more about Luo Yang’s work on her website.

Xu Xiaoxiao, “Watering my horse by a spring at the foot of the long wall” (2020)
Xu Xiaoxiao, “Portrait of a girl lying on corn pile”, Gansu, 2018. From the series “Watering my horse by a spring at the foot of the Long Wall”. Copyright © Xiaoxiao Xu, 2020.

 Xu Xiaoxiao was born in southeastern Qingtian near Wenzhou and immigrated to the Netherlands when she was 14 years old. Spending half her life in the Netherlands changed her view on China. Her identity can not be defined straightforward anymore, she is both an insider and an outsider.

For her series Watering my horse, Xu Xiaoxiao focusses on human activities and the everyday life of people that surround the Great Wall of China. She therefore overcomes the symbols of the monument: a symbol of power, of fear of the other, of isolation and of unity. 

Find out more about Xu Xiaoxiao’s work on the Three Shadows Photography Art Center’s website or on her website.  

#2 Luo Yang joins the Cité internationale des arts in Paris

Luo Yang. Courtesy of the artist

Doors has accompanied and supported Chinese photographer Luo Yang’s application to the Cité internationale des arts and Institut français residency program.

From the 2019 Jimei x Arles photo festival to the 2021 edition of the PhotoSaintGermain festival at A2Z Art Gallery, we are proud to have initiated this bridge between one of the most talented photographers of her generation and France. After focusing on women (“Girls” series, 2007-2018) and Chinese youth (“Youth” series, since 2019), this research residency will allow Luo Yang to focus on a new project on migration and cultural identity.

It will explore the inheritance and shifts of Chinese identity in different social and cultural contexts. By choosing families as subjects, she seeks to understand how such a notion is reflected among different generations within a family, in which immigration and life overseas has provided exotic soil for new identities to grow.

# 3 A World History of Women Photographers

 Empress Cixi

Empress Cixi, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution 

 Hou Bo

Hou Bo, Mao Zedong inspects local agricultural development, 1958.

 Xiao Zhuang

Xiao Zhuang, "A member of Yinyang Commune in Qidong Country, Jiangsu Province, listening to the news with headphones", 1962. Courtesy of the artist.


Wong Wo Bik, "Garden, Euston Mansion".

 Wang Miao

Wang Miao, Work from the album "The Mysterious Plateau of Tibet"

 Xing Danwen

Xing Danwen, "A Personal Diary"

 Cui Xiuwen

Cui Xiuwen, "Angel n°11", 2006.


Chen Lingyang, "The Second Month Magnolia", 1999.

Doors is proud to have contributed to “A World History of Women Photographers” under the direction of Luce Lebart and Marie-Juliette Robert, published in November 2020 by Editions textuel. The English version was published in 2022 by Thames & Hudson.

We coordinated the book section dedicated to China: eight biographies of women active in the field of photography until 2000 authored by Bérénice Angremy, Marine Cabos (Photography of China), Yining He, Victoria Jonathan, and Karen Smith.

Empress Dowager Cixi had her hand on all the photographs taken of her, from the costume to the framing and composition. 
Hou Bo is one of the most notorious photographers of Mao Zedong. She learned photography during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), seeking to present a better image of the Chinese Communist Party’s work to the world. 
Xiao Zhuang started as a photojournalist in the 1950s. She documented the everyday life of Mao’s China between the 1950s and 1970s. 
Wong Wo Bik explores the aesthetic of the disappearance of built structure and cityscape through the application of still and moving images. 
Wang Miao is one of the founders of the April Photo Society. Born in Beijing in 1951, she experienced the same “age of turmoil” as many of her peers and is a self-taught photographer. 
Xing Danwen is one of the most prominent photographers who emerged in the 1990s. She depicted artistic life in the “East Village” and underground Beijing during this period. Read our interview with Xing Danwen here.
Cui Xiuwen was part of the Siren Art Studio, a collective of women artists whose work openly addressed feminist issues. She wanted to make women’s voices heard and to find places to exhibit in a male-dominated art world.
Chen Lingyang is a pioneer artist active in the 2000s who contextualized the subject of femininity in relation to Chinese traditional culture. Chen’s best-known series, “Twelve Flower Months”, by evoking private and public imageries, simultaneously relates to the individualistic and collective experience of women living in China.   

The English version will be released in 2022 by Thames and Hudson.

#4 Female in focus

Female in focus award 2022 jury

Doors’ co-founder Victoria Jonathan takes part in the 2022 Female in Focus Award jury.  Launched in 2019 by the British Journal of Photography, the award is an open call to female-identifying photographers worldwide. It is an annual initiative to promote and reward women’s work in an industry that disproportionately favors men.

Nine other women involved in the presence of women in the photography industry compose the jury: 


#5  Championing women’s empowerment in advertising

The women empowerment movement is gaining momentum in Chinese society through pop culture and advertising. For the last part of our Opening Doors For Women series, we highlighted a few recent campaigns championing Chinese women’s independence and diversity. 

Neiwai’s “NO BODY IS NOBODY” campaign
Luo Yang, “No body is nobody” campaign, 2020.

In March 2022, Chinese low-key lingerie brand Neiwai launched the third installment of its “NO BODY IS NOBODY” project, celebrating female body diversity and inclusivity. 

For three consecutive years, through the campaigns directed by Chinese photographer Luo Yang, women with various body types tell their stories through videos and photos. The series of campaign also featured an in-depth content production with theme photo works, special short films, and documentary movies in collaboration with artist Wang Yingying. The founder of the brand, Liu Xiaolu, pursues her attachment to women’s issues through a charity called “Her Voice Forum” (“她·说”). The forum gives the floor to inspiring researchers, influencers, and activists on various topics concerning women’s place in society.

Watch the video here

Jia Zhangke, “Peacock, Peacock”
Jia Zhangke, Extract of “Peacock, Peacock”, 2022.

Famous Chinese director Jia Zhangke shot a 15-mn film called “Peacock, Peacock” for Tmall’s International Women’s Rights Day 2022. The short movie pays tribute to women who carry and pursue their dreams in ordinary life.  

The video presents dream-chasing moments of two ordinary women, white-collar Jin Yiyi and garment factory worker Wang Juan, showing the audience a new typical relationship of contemporary women – “women’s mutual help”, or sorority.  

Watch the video here !

Related DoorZine Articles
With the series "The Bliss of Conformity", Guo Yingguang won the 2017 Jimei x Arles-Madame Figaro Women Photographers Award, the first award of its kind in China, which was launched in 2017 by Jimei x Arles photo festival and Madame Figaro China.
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