by Alison Zavos in New Photography on Friday 23 May 2008

In my Personal Vision class at the International Center of Photography, one of our first assignments was to photograph a classmate naked. I was paired up with a guy who wasn’t keen on the assignment (he ended up backing out due to moral issues), and the opportunity to photograph a stranger in the nude is yet to come up again. Yet! With that in mind, we interviewed New York-based, Chinese photographer Shen Wei about his series Almost Naked and how he gets through those awkward moments. Who are your subjects and how do you go about finding them? ‘Most of my subjects are strangers; very few are people I know. I find my subjects through many different methods, such as at social events, through friends, on the Internet, and by approaching them on location’.

How do you go about putting strangers at ease when photographing them? ‘It is a complicated process. Every one of my subjects is different. Everyone has their own interest in the situation. What I do is just try to have natural and comfortable communications with them. I see them as my new friends, not just models’.

Do you have specific ideas on how you want to photograph your subjects or do you let them lead the way? ‘I talk to my subjects before I start shooting. When we communicate well, often we just work together. I usually let my subjects do whatever they are comfortable with. I like the moment when emotion appears naturally’.

Has there ever been an occasion when you have felt uncomfortable photographing one of your subjects? ‘Of course, there are a few times, but I always manage to overcome the awkwardness’.

shen wei
shen wei