Prove your humanity

Gao is a full-time fashion photographer based in Shanghai. Applying a sartorially straightforward yet experimental approach, this visual composer shoots both digital and analogue fashion and portrait photography. High time for Temper and Gao to Take Five!

Image by Tim Gao, 2018

Take 1! How does the new legion of post-80 and post-90 Chinese photographers and artists reflect a shift in China’s cultural Zeitgeist? Where do you fit in?

Gao: Aaah, I must admit that I have not actually “systematically” studied the influence and contribution of China’s current young photographer community to the contemporary culture and art scenes. Nevertheless, in general, our generation of photographers is brimming with opportunities and challenges. Seeing how more and more young local fashion designers are emerging across China and given the increasing number of designers who are trained and employed in fashion and fashion houses abroad, the need for edgier, custom-built photography is imminent.

As many such aforementioned designers are returning to China to establish their independent fashion brands, they tend to come with more personalized requirements and higher standards for the visual image and tonality of the brand. These fashionable architects hope to cooperate with cutting-edge photographers and visually artistic teams who can help get on point the desired brand image, style and aesthetics in order to complete their latest lookbook. And shoot their up-to-the-seasonal-minute campaigns.

For me personally goes that I also enjoy collaborating with novel front line fashion designers and brands to really gain the most from that artist alliance on both the creative and visual level.


“Wild Crane And Floating Cloud”. Image by Tim Gao, 2018

Take 2! What is the Tim Gao photography philosophy — in three sentences. Go! 

Gao: As a medium of expression, photography should follow the inclination and intuition of the heart and soul. The frank and to the point communication of ideas with and between team members. Press that shutter at the right time, basked in the light.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Take 3! About visual enlightenment and evolution, then. How have you seen people’s individuality and style in China evolve over the past five years? Does art reflect what’s happening in socio-economic terms in China? 

Gao: In fact, my enlightenment in photography came from fine art, documentary and portrait photographers such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Diane Arbus and Josef Koudelka. In fact, I started off my professional photography career with a documentary photography project and documenting the streets ‘n their styles remains a favorite of mine as well.

From a historical point of view, one of the functions of photography was the recording of social culture set against the backdrop of the times at hand. For me, photography is more of a diary documenting the “self.”

The future direction of Chinese photography may be a rather difficult one to predict. The aesthetics of fashion and artistic vision are constantly changing. The visual arts overall may continue to break through barriers in terms of form and content as time goes by. Then again, we might witness a trending return to retro… We’ll wait and click!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Take 4! You’ve already mentioned timing and lighting. So what about… Gender and color in the visual arts. What roles do you assign to these two components?

Gao: For fashion photography, models of both male and female genders can wear the latest designer clothes. In my opinion, everything seems to be about the beauty of human nature: The beauty of the appearance and the true expression of inner emotion. In addition, within the work itself, creative people of different genders — and different nationalities, even — work together to generate the positive collision of ideas.

Though I think that color has no bearing on the formality and emotional expression of a photo, I do usually like to shoot in black and white directly or change the color of the image to black and white later on in the editing process. On the other hand, this reversed process inspires me and I might try to turn black and white pics into colored ones through artistic processing. Whatever suits the nature of the shoot and subject!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Take Five! When flipping through your portfolio, I noticed a massive evolution (and a massively wonderful one, at that) in your work from 2017 to 2018. What drives you? 

Gao: It may be the natural development and transformation that comes with each stage in a life and/or career. Maintaining my original intention and passion for photography was and always will be my purest motivation. One of the things that I will continue to focus on, is the examination and excavation of the true beauty of Chinese art and the application of those uncovered elements to fashion photography. Looking forward into the “imaginary” future, I hope that my creative and visual collaborations will continue to seek new, groundbreaking, eye- and shutter-opening opportunities!


Here’s to clicking! And to round things up in beauty, we end this Take Five with a word from photography’s Yoda Peter Lindberg himself:

“If photographers are responsible for creating or reflecting an image of women in society, then I must say, there is only one way for the future, and this is to define women as strong and independent. This should be the responsibility of photographers today: to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.”

This is, after all, the natural course of things.










The photographs in this interview were adopted from Tim Gao’s project series “闲云野鹤” (“Wild Crane and Floating Cloud”)
Team credits:
  • Photographer: Tim Gao
  • Fashion Stylist: Rally Wong
  • Makeup and hair: Romey.G
  • Model: Rachel Lu (ESEE Model Management), Shiqi Yang (Elite Model Management), Chen Qu (Longteng Model Management)
  • Assistants: Xingxing, Laurent Xu




For more info, contact Tim Gao via his:



Copyright@Temper Magazine, 2018. All rights reserved



Elsbeth van Paridon
Follow me