“Surface beauty is fleeting. I can define it,” shares Lili Fang, Chicago photographer. The type of beauty Lili captures on camera is much less definitive. She looks for the soul; what you can’t see just from looking. Someone’s enthusiasm, their compassion, their quirks, their feelings… these juxtapositions of perfection and imperfection that can only be measured by the unspoken comfort and connection between her and her model. When you consider that connection, she is so much more than simply a photographer and her photographs become far less objective and pretty- but intentional and magical, even. She conjures a unique story and tells it through the spirit of her models, and the result is a palette of curiosity, marvel, and allure.
When it comes to feeling the spirit of those she works with, it doesn’t get much more literal than Lili doubling as a photographer and a third year medical resident. Let’s take a moment and sit with that. I don’t know many doctors, so to hear her discuss being in the trenches, making the dreaded phone calls, and the relentless exhaustion of being thrown into a pandemic even years of medical school couldn’t prepare her (or any physician) for… I was speechless. And still, her positivity and kindness beamed through the sadness of the discussion, just like glamour and charm glow from her photographs, her and her art like euphoric snapshots into a future far different than our current normal.
Lili’s artistic journey began in highschool, documenting the people around her in the burbs of Washington DC and, later, Chicago. Her work started to gain momentum, encouraging her to take a year off of medical school to immerse herself in photography. She shot over 70 shoots that year. Now, her portfolio sings with models, creatives, and musicians who all share this stunning, futuristic “it” factor. And when I say “it factor,” I’m not talking about that of the Jenners. There’s no arrogance or superficiality in Lili’s shoots…everyone looks like where Vogue meets a beautiful girl on a train, a friend on a vintage thrifted couch, or a lover in a bathtub. And she further illustrates this in how she talks about her shoots. She speaks of them so fondly, like unforgettable memories. You can tell it’s never just a job to her, but truly a shared and sacred experience between who’s in front of the camera and who’s behind the camera, and how their voices harmonize. Even if the story is somewhat simple, the photographs are compelling and rooted in real. She recalls a shoot she did for the Chinese New Year, capturing the fun and celebration among all Asian models in her apartment, and her continuing shoots with her pal, Jana, illustrating her hair journey. Moments in time, and characters in stories, with unforgettable color and intriguing posing.
Lili may spend most of her time helping others and being behind the camera, but she is an absolute force with an eye for depth and soul. Keep up with her work HERE.