The Feast, inside by Yushi Li

Yushi Li: Seeing the world through a female lens

The photographer redirects the male gaze in her striking photographs

The Feast, inside by Yushi Li

The Feast, inside by Yushi Li

When I first saw Yushi Li’s photographs I was mesmerised, I drank them in like a thirsty woman gulping down water. Our culture is usually viewed through a male lens. Advertising, the media – the images we see have usually been chosen, created and designed for men. Just think of cars sold with scantily clad woman draped over the bonnet. Or yoghurt where a young woman licks her lips orgasmically as she takes a bite. The sexualised female form saturates our society.

A photographer who’s subverting norms

But Yushi, 29 and doing a PhD in photography at the Royal College of Art, has flipped that script. Her pictures subvert the usual norms: The women are clothed and the men are naked. (Usually it is Yushi in the pictures.)

“I’ve always been interested in erotic images of women with food; Nigella Lawson licking spoons – that whole narrative which goes ‘Oh she looks delicious.’ I thought it would be interesting to make male versions of these images.” she says. “I was tired of seeing naked women as a currency on everything.”

Picture: Your Reservation Is Confirmed by Yushi Li

Your Reservation Is Confirmed by Yushi Li

How do you find men to photograph?

I wondered if it had been hard to get the men to pose for her. “I found them on Tinder – I matched with about 300 men and 15 agreed to pose. Some others said they would do it ‘if I fucked them afterwards’. I did not reply. I am not going to sell my body for my pictures!” She laughs.

At one point she joked in an interview that rather than being like a ‘FuckBoy trawling Tinder for sex, I was hunting for images’.

“Men got very sensitive about me using Fuck Boy like that,” she says. “I didn’t think it was a humiliating word, after all women are called slags or whores all the time. I didn’t think Fuck Boy was particularly perjorative but then men didn’t like it, which I thought was telling.”

The Feast, Outside by Yushi Li

An enthusiastic response

She says she has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm from women for the project. “I’ve had so many messages, from women saying my work empowers them, particularly from China. In Asia they celebrate young women’s bodies, exalt them, even moreso than in the West. I like to think my work begins to redress the balance.”

Her next project: Older women

For her next project, she’s interested in photographing older women, showing their continuing sexual allure, the stories their bodies tell of their lives and struggles. “I wanted to photograph my mother, but she didn’t like it. We never see naked pictures of older women. I’m looking for women for this project.”

Noon is all about the women’s point of view. This is a space for us. For us to look at the world in a new way. Yushi Li’s work is an important part of that.

Would you like to be photographed?

If you would like to be part of her new project to photograph women in their Noontime, please email us at hello@inherspace.co.uk. I’ve signed up!

Gallerist 002 by Yushi Li

— Eleanor Mills, Noon founder

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