Tom Selmon’s Beijing Beauty

China. A very big coun­try fea­tur­ing 56 minor­it­ies and one Party line. A very tra­di­tion­al soci­ety which offers little to no room for, or at least frowns upon, those who do not toe the line. 

中国,一个拥有着 56 个民族的独党执政大国;一个十分传统的社会,这个社会几乎没有给那些敢于打破常规的人留下什么发展空间。

Think those women who have long bid Adieu to the prime age of 27 and still remain single (the so-called “leftover women”). Think our plain high-school Jane who doesn’t show up at her man­dat­ory extra­cur­ricular math, Eng­lish and piano les­sons (and that’s just Monday) and instead opts to sneak­ily get out of her track­suit uni­form and chill out on a hutong rooftop. Think homo­sexu­als in gen­er­al (seen “Shock The Gay Away”, any­one?). Or think drag queens – or any man/​woman who feels more com­fort­able dressed as the oppos­ite sex, for that mat­ter.

例如那些过了 27 岁黄金年龄仍旧单身的女性(又被称为“剩女”),那些逃课跑去胡同屋顶消遣的叛逆的高中生,那些同志和拉拉,还有那些喜欢变装的人。

 Chinese cul­ture sports some of the most andro­gyn­ous art forms you’ll find in the over­all glob­al cul­tur­al his­tory. 中国的双性文化是世界文化历史中雌雄同体艺术形式的集中体现。

I’ve per­son­ally always con­sidered these “judg­ment­al” calls made in Chinese soci­ety to be quite iron­ic, espe­cially given that some of the nation’s most prided and his­tor­ic­al art forms, think Beijing opera (jingju), are among the most andro­gyn­ous (avant-la-lettre) you can spot in glob­al cul­tur­al his­tory. In the par­tic­u­lar case of opera, it is cus­tom for male act­ors to take on the female leads. And they must train, mas­ter­ing the elab­or­ate makeup, words and staple opera “man­ner­isms” for years on end, in order to just be allowed to get up on that stage.


Tom Sel­mon fol­lows and cap­tures their voy­age and out­look — both on life as in its most lit­er­al sense — on camera.Tom Sel­mon 用相机真实地反映了他们的生活轨迹和他们对生活的态度。

Either way, it’s usu­ally these social “quirks” (I think using the term “out­casts” would be overly dra­mat­ic) who are the most appeal­ing or inter­est­ing to us out­siders. Sexu­al­ity in China is a con­fus­ing and very much “alive” con­cept in a rap­idly chan­ging scen­ario that has only been con­ceived some three dec­ades ago. People, espe­cially those born after 1990, are seek­ing and devel­op­ing their indi­vidu­al­it­ies, a top­ic which can raise ques­tions in terms of their own gender and sexu­al­ity.

对于我们外国人来说用“奇葩”(quirks) 这个词来形容社会中的这类人更为贴切(我认为用社会“弃儿”(outcast) 一词有些过于戏剧化了)。在中国社会快速发展变化的浪潮中,“性”是一个让人觉得困惑同时又十分“活跃”的概念,中国人民的性意识也是在三十多年前才刚刚苏醒的。特别是 90 年以后出生的年轻人,他们正在努力寻找并标榜着自己的个性,其中有关性别及性方面的话题在这些年轻人是最受关注的。


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Their jour­neys may at times be con­tro­ver­sial or con­fus­ing yet always beau­ti­ful and out­stand­ing. (You may take the lat­ter lit­er­ally.) Enter Brit Tom Sel­mon, doc­u­ment­ary pho­to­grapher. Sel­mon has chosen to swim the some­times stormy waters of the cur­rent change in think­ing about gender and sexu­al­ity among China’s 20-somethings. He fol­lows and cap­tures their voy­age and out­look (both on life as in its most lit­er­al sense) on cam­era.

这些年轻人所显露出来的另类风格虽然可能备受争议,让人觉得难以理解,但他们的确展现了一种超常的美(或许你可以从字面上来理解)。在来势汹汹的潮流变化中,纪实摄影师 Tom Sel­mon 在用自己独特的视角拍摄记录着中国 20 多岁年轻人有关性别与性的思考。他用相机真实地反映了他们的生活轨迹和他们对生活的态度。

Keep read­ing for my full inter­view with the man him­self as pub­lished in Form­at Magazine!

有关 Tom Sel­mom 的详细采访请见 Form­at Magazine!

Pho­to­grapher Tom Sel­mon explains his fas­cin­a­tion with China’s drag and queer cul­ture.

摄影师 Tom Sel­mon 用他的镜头诠释着中国变装文化的独特魅力。

Sexu­al­ity and gender fluid­ity in China are very much “alive” con­cepts set with­in the country’s rap­idly chan­ging social land­scape. Brit­ish Beijing-based doc­u­ment­ary pho­to­grapher Tom Sel­mon is one artist keep­ing a close eye, lit­er­ally, on China’s evolving rela­tion­ship with non-bin­ary iden­ti­fic­a­tion.

在中国迅速变化的社会潮浪中,性与性别的不确定性成为一个十分 活跃 的概念。居住在北京的英国纪实摄影师 Tom Sel­mon 从艺术的角度出发密切地记录着中国雌雄同体风潮的发展演变。

Sel­mon fol­lows altern­at­ive youth cul­ture and has cre­ated an impress­ive body of work that explores street fash­ion, drag cul­ture and the cul­tur­al con­text of mod­ern-day Beijing.

Sel­mon 跟踪拍摄另类青年文化,从街头时尚、变装文化、到文化背景中的现代北京,他的创作充满了魔性令人着迷。

 Tom Sel­mon spoke to us about his move from Lon­don to Beijing and his fas­cin­a­tion with the “indi­vidu­al beau­ty” of drag queens :

Tom Sel­mon 跟我们讲述了他从伦敦来到北京的经过,以及他所感受到的变装文化的 独特魅力

It may sound silly, but I just thought pho­to­graphy would be some­thing I’d be rather good at. I’ve always wanted to cre­ate things, even when I was young­er, and pho­to­graphy allows you to cre­ate some­thing instantly.


I was pre­vi­ously based in Lon­don — shoot­ing fash­ion, among oth­er things. Aside from edit­or­i­al under­tak­ings, I was attempt­ing to expand my focus and shoot dif­fer­ent scenes in Lon­don, such as the drag and LGBT. I am gay myself and there­fore the ‘bond’ or affil­i­ation was already there.


One friend of mine, already liv­ing in Beijing, told me about everything going on there, the changes in soci­ety and I thought I’d check it out.


I dis­covered after arriv­ing in Beijing, that the pho­to­graph­ic pos­sib­il­it­ies were abso­lutely fant­ast­ic. So I stayed. Opposed to tra­di­tion­al Chinese soci­etal norms, the gen­er­a­tion born post-1990 are far more open, and open-minded, about the con­cepts of gender, sex and sexu­al­ity. Which, in turn, is great for me as a pho­to­grapher who aims to doc­u­ment all sorts of people. For me, these Chinese post-90s cer­tainly stand out from the massive Chinese crowds.

到北京之后我发现,北京的摄影题材实在是太吸引人了。于是我就这样住了下来。中国 90 年后出生的一代人,与中国传统社会道德理念相悖,对于性别与性方面的看法很开放。这对于我,一个想拍摄社会中不同人的摄影师来说是再好不过的题材了。我认为中国的 90 后是当之无愧的脱颖而出的一代人。

I am a pho­to­grapher of people. I like to doc­u­ment people from all walks and scenes of life. I do espe­cially adore male beau­ty, the defin­i­tions of the male. That’s prob­ably also why I think drag queens often look strik­ing.



When makeup touches male bone struc­ture, I think it’s magic­al. I like extreme beau­ty as well as soft, nat­ur­al beau­ty. It’s less of a fas­cin­a­tion with drag, but def­in­itely a real fas­cin­a­tion with men.


I simply enjoy focus­ing on unique faces and people. Bring­ing out, again, their indi­vidu­al beau­ty.


Some type of gender or sexu­al revolu­tion, as I’ve called it before, is tak­ing place across the streets of Beijing. The city and its people have some kind of ‘flow’ going for them. Both gender and sexu­al bor­ders are being crossed and are, in fact, slowly fad­ing.


They are put­ting them­selves out there. They dare to bare them­selves. Which is exactly that what makes them very so attract­ive to my lens. It’s a kind of innate beau­ty for me. One that also shows in the face.







Tom Selmon’s online port­fo­lio

点击此处查看 Tom Sel­mon 的在线作品

Ori­gin­al text and inter­view by Els­beth van Par­idon for Tem­per Magazine.

Edit­ing by Form­at Magazine.

Chinese trans­la­tions by Li Dan of Kitayama Stu­dio.


Syn­dic­ated from Tem­per Magazine

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