If there’s a moustachioed man, covered in mackerel vertically streaked with a smudge of mauve and he’s looking straight at you, you have to ask yourself “why?”. That’s exactly what I did when I first saw May Xiong’s conceptual series of portraits entitled ‘Strokes’, but I found myself drawing a blank.
Seattle-based photographer May Xiong’ work draws you in with its bizarre beauty and then leaves you hanging with just enough wonder that you keep asking “but why?”. Her conceptual portraits are accumulating ever increasing buzz across social media, with spotlights on some of the more popular art Tumblrs and interviews abound on blogs.
“My goal isn’t to try and stand out, but to simply create photographs out of being passionate and having the thrive to continuously share how I see the world through my artistic vision.”
Xiong started in 2005 when she was 15, after being given a digital camera for her birthday, and she quickly found that photography could be an outlet to explore and capture narratives. Those narratives are today mainly disseminated online, quite often under the title MX photography.
“Everything is uploaded online and from that we are able to allow ourselves to share what we know, what we do and or create.”
The stories May’s photographs tell are often fantastical, and rely on viewer interpretation. But, because of their soft, almost hypnotic aesthetic the viewer is never made to feel uncomfortably lost. Rather, you are given a sense, under the direct gaze of the subject, that her images are part of a tale you already know, and simply need to remember – the same deja vu you get when a real life experience resonates with something encountered only previously in a dream. That’s where the strength in May’s photography lies, the sense of the familiar that pervades in even the most defamiliarised images.
“My conceptual work explores oddity, beauty, and attention to detail in portraiture. The arrangement of the subject and the environment often plays a big part in balancing the two. A mixture of portraiture and fine art, these constructed pieces are shaped by the idea of skewing one’s perspective, leaving the viewer to define the emotion behind each photograph.”