Sarah Mei Herman

2014 - Ongoing

I started this series in 2014 during a four-month artist in residence in the Chinese coastal city-island Xiamen. Instead of focusing on the cultural differences, I wanted to research the things that are universally recognizable: the meaning of friendship and love. I started photographing several young adults, primarily women, and their intimate relationships. I found some of my models in the streets of Xiamen, but most of them at the Xiamen University campus.

Amongst the young women I met, many were in a lesbian relationship. In China gay-sexuality is not illegal anymore but it is still unaccepted by the older generations. None of the young women I photographed are able to speak openly to their parents about their sexual preferences. This is a remarkable contradiction in this fast changing modern China. At this moment, many lesbian girls have secret relationships. With my still life images in the series, I attempt to refer to this hidden and secret female universe.

Since my work period in 2014, I have revisited Xiamen several times. Each visit I met up with some of the same young women again, capturing their changes over time. With some of them I built up a closer friendship, which allowed me to photograph them repeatedly. During these encounters I not only attempted to touch upon the intimate moments between my subjects, yet also, upon the proximity between the subjects an myself.

In this ongoing series four recurring young women are portrayed over time: Haiqing, Linli, Xiaoli and Liyao. They are all connected with each other, since they studied at the same university. Fortuitously in the past years, three of them moved to Europe - to The Netherlands and Germany and the last 3 portraits in the submitted selection were made in The Netherlands, where I am based. In this body of work, my observations of these fascinating young women and their relationships, became part of a mosaic narrative.

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  • Haiqing, Xiamen, October 2014

  • Linli & Naomi, Xiamen, January 2015

  • Yaki, Xiamen, November 2014

  • Xue Min & Han Xu, Xiamen, November 2014

  • Untitled, Xiamen 2015

  • Haiqing, Xiamen, November 2014

  • Xiaoyu, Xiamen, July 2015

  • Haiqing & Ling, Xiamen, November 2016

  • Untitled, Xiamen 2014

  • Haiqing, Xiamen, July 2015

  • Linli & Viral, Xiamen, November 2017

  • Linli, Xiamen, July 2015

  • Dormitory, Xiamen 2015

  • Linli & Yafang, Xiamen, November 2014

  • Xiaoyu & Liyao, Xiamen, July 2015

  • Haiqing, Xiamen, November 2017

  • Xiaoyu & Liyao, Amsterdam, April 2018

  • Haiqing, Amsterdam, March 2019

  • Xiaoyu & Qiumo, Utrecht, June 2019

  • Liyao, Amsterdam, December 2020

  • Xiaoyu & Liyao, Amsterdam, September 2021

  • Xiaoyu, Amsterdam, June 2022