In the work of New York–based illustrator Zhiyu You, you’re equally likely to see women relaxing with snacks on the couch as you are likely to see their eyeballs boiling out of their heads or their faces getting sucked into their phones. “Women have always been the protagonists of my work,” she says. “They are sometimes powerful, sometimes fragile and sometimes unpredictable.” Inspired by a wide variety of artists, such as illustrator Moebius; horror manga artist Junji Ito; and her former instructors at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) like Mupan, Marcos Chin, Yuko Shimizu and Sam Weber, You explores the perils and triumphs of being a woman in both eastern and western societies. An artist from a young age, she studied drawing from the age of five with her parents’ support but encountered trepidation for her chosen career path when, while in high school, she told them she wanted to study art. “My parents thought that being an artist would be a very unstable job in the future; they hoped I would study finance like them,” You says. “But under my persistent insistence, they finally agreed to support me going to art school. I entered the Central Academy of Fine Arts to study but didn’t like the exam-oriented education in China, so this [provided] an opportunity for me to come to New York and study at SVA.” Primarily, You wants to construct a “female vision” in her work that portrays the problems women face in multiple dimensions and better convey them to her audience. “When I was growing up, many families still had a strong preference for sons in China,” she explains. “Fortunately, I was born into a family where my parents didn’t devalue me because I am a girl. But many female friends around me are still treated unfairly by family and society because they are women. I hope [to] draw more attention to women in society through my work.”
Through his intimate style, this New York–based photographer seeks to capture portraits of authenticity.