Yijun (Pixy) Liao, originally from Shanghai, China, chose fine art photography for its freedom from commercial obligations of working previously as a graphic designer. Her "Experimental Relationship" series focuses on the performative tension of ethnic and age differences between herself and her boyfriend, Moro, a Japanese student five years younger than Pixy. The stereotypical roles placed on heterosexual couples are a conflict for this series and confront such issues.
Relationships work best when each partner knows their proper place, © Yijun (Pixy) Liao
As a woman, I used to think I can only fall in love with someone that I adore, who is maturer than me, older than me, a protector, a mentor. Then I met my boyfriend, Moro, who is 5 years younger than me. I felt the whole relationship changed all the way around. I become the person who had more authority and power. When I told my male friend about my new relationship, he said, "How could you choose a boyfriend the way we choose a girlfriend?!" I thought "Damn right. That's exactly what I'm doing, but why not?!"
Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.
Yijun (Pixy) Liao: I grew up in Shanghai, China. I have a bachelor degree in educational technology which I had no interest in at all. So I spent most of my time playing around with Photoshop. After graduation, I became a graphic designer. After 3 years of freelance work, I was so fed up with my clients & decided to go abroad & study some other major that I'm truly interested in. I applied for graphic design & photography at the same time. University of Memphis photo program accepted me. So here I am, 3 years later, finishing up my MFA in photography.
Your lover should always be your best supporter, © Yijun (Pixy) Liao
I have always doubted the stereotype of a man-woman relationship. Why should a couple be a man and a woman? Why does man have to be a certain way? Why should woman be a certain way? I feel relationships are far more complicated and always changing, and it has lots of possibilities. So I began to think about the meaning of this relationship and experimented with it.
NP: How did you discover photography?
YPL: When I was a graphic designer, I watched a movie called "Blow-up". It's a story about a photographer's involvement with a murder case. I said to myself, "That's the job I want. It has so much more freedom than being a graphic designer." (The photographer in the movie simply walked out his studio in the middle of the shoot, because he's bored with the models.)
Intimacy will improve your relationship, © Yijun (Pixy) Liao
I also express my frustrations in a relationship, like the impossibility to find a soul-mate, the feeling of isolation and disconnection; because my boyfriend is Japanese, and I am Chinese. The project sometimes also describes a love and hate relationship.
This project is an experiment to me, not a real document of our real relationship.
NP: Where do you find inspiration?
YPL: I guess from everything I experience in daily life and I mix them up in my daydreams.
Before I fall asleep, I lie on my bed, half-asleep, half-awake, and all my ideas will come to me at that time.
NP: How did this project come about?
YPL: Moro, my boyfriend, is my muse for this project.
The project began after I dated him for one year. I met Moro in Memphis. He is Japanese and 5 years younger than me. The experience of culture shock and age difference within this relationship inspired me.
How to build a relationship with layered meanings, © Yijun (Pixy) Liao
NP: What difficulties did you encounter while working on this series?
YPL: Sometimes, Moro is not willing to work with me. He'll pull a long face & complain about being used. But I'll manage to take the pictures anyway.
Food and nature are two secrets to a successful relationship, © Yijun (Pixy) Liao
NP: What's next?
YPL: I just moved to Brooklyn & reunited with my boyfriend. (He graduated & moved half year before me.) I’m excited about continuing with this project and adding my new insights about relationship.
NP: Thank you, Pixy!
Yijun (Pixy) Liao is currently a Hey, Hot Shot! for the Fall 2008 edition. Her other series, "Stills from Unseen Films," will be presented in a group show at Jen Bekman Gallery starting January 30, 2009.
Also, happy holidays from all of us at Nymphoto!