Ren Hang 任航 (1987-2017) was a poet and photographer born in Nong’ An, a suburb of Changchun, capital of the north-eastern province of Jilin, called the “Detroit of China” for its automotive industry. At the age of seventeen, he left his hometown to settle down in Beijing to study marketing. His college work didn’t interest him so – to kill boredom – he bought himself a point-and-shoot film camera and taught himself to use it.
Ren created several photographic series between 2008 and 2016, in concomitance with poems and free verses that we wrote between 2007 and 2017. He was well known for his sexually-charged and explicit photographs, in which young naked bodies interlaced with one another in uncommon settings.
His models (mostly friends) posed naked, in impromptu choreographies, stacked like compression sculptures, often contorted in unnatural shapes. Their body parts were interlaced with flowers, hairs, and animals amongst other atypical props. Ren combined indoors, outdoors, natural and urban environments to create fanciful raw portrayal of young people, regardless their gender. His goal was to “portray every organ in a fresh, vivid and emotional way.” Bright, lurid, blunt, the eroticism in Ren’s works is obvious. Yet they also convey a strong poetic and evocative force. “People come into this world naked and I consider naked bodies to be people’s original, authentic look,” Ren told vice magazine back in 2013. “I feel the real existence of people through their naked bodies.”
Ren Hang committed suicide on February 24th in Beijing. He was 29. Ren Hang’s complete journal of depression, originally written in Chinese, was published for the very first time in English by The Chronicle. Yogurt Magazine’s mid-fall night dream was to feature some of his poems. Here is a selection of Ren Hang’s poetry exclusively translated into English by Elena Rebaudengo.