|(GT Photo/Courtesy of Yang Zhazha)|
If you love one, send him/her to New York, because it is a paradise; if you hate one, send him/her to New York, because it is a hell. This classic line from popular 1994 drama A Native of Beijing in New York seems very suited for describing the lives of many Beipiao, or Beijing drifters - a term used to refer to those who have moved to Beijing but are still struggling for a better life.
Independent photographer Yang Zhazha is one of these millions of Beipiao. Spending four long years on his photo project Love in Beijing he demonstrates the many love stories that exist in this crowded metropolis.
Starting in 2009 Yang's project now consists of more than 25,000 photos of 52 couples. Expats, rock musicians, university professors, and lesbian lovers have all fallen under his lens. Most were introduced through friends, while some volunteered online.
Different from commercialized studio productions, the couples Yang has captured do not wear magnificent suits or dresses, but often just very casual T-shirts. Backgrounds are not of castles or a sea of flowers, but the untidy rental apartments where the couples live. Many couples in the photos don't even smile a lot, while some are half or even full-on naked.
Some explanations are added to each series of photos, such as the professions of the couples and their current living status.
Due to the unusual style of his photos, Yang faced some opposition when he first started. "Many lovers wanted to have their photos shot in a park or a cafeteria, just like what you'd see in an album. But what I look for are pictures with a deep feeling of life," Yang explained. "[With fake scenes and clothes, couples] may look good, but that has nothing to do with the real you."
To put couples, many of whom had had no acquaintance with Yang before, at ease, Yang said he would start sessions by chatting with them. This interaction proved invaluable as it enabled him to learn how to better present his subjects during a shoot.
Yang told the Global Times that he has been impressed by the different stories he has heard from time to time, one he particularly enjoys sharing is about a lesbian couple and an elderly grandmother.
"Lan (pseudonym) lives with her girlfriend and her 80-year-old grandma. The three have a very good relationship. What moves me the most is that such an elderly lady is able to accept gay love, while many young people still cannot," Yang said.