In his series, photographer Trunk Xu documents the daily life of a young man from Shanghai, who is 190cm tall and weighs over 150 kg. After getting to know him, Xu encouraged Lulu to be himself in front of the camera, and captured his happiness and sorrows, his habits and hobbies. Sensitive, emotional and beautiful.
How did Lulu come about?
First of all, I love people; I love to photograph people. Different people represent different stories to me. I would love it if my pictures were able to deliver not just visuals, but stories. When I planned this project, I knew that I wanted to have a special person. I put a post on Weibo: “model wanted” and specified, “if you think you are beautiful in a special way, and you are okay with being photographed, please send me your information.” When Lulu appeared among the hundreds of replies, I knew that he was the one.
Indeed Lulu is a special, exceptional person. What concept did you have for conveying his image photographically?
First of all, I wanted to know everything possible about Lulu: what he does for a living, what his habits are, what foods he loves, his family and friends, his actual “size”, his loved ones, and, most importantly, his philosophy for facing the world. And I was so lucky: Lulu trusted me and revealed himself completely to me. Then I started to “translate” Lulu into images.
As an influencer, Lulu is not someone who would hide. Even so, was he able to be himself in front of the camera?
Everything was discussed before we took action: I needed to make sure that Lulu would feel comfortable. There were a few nudity scenes, and I showed him the images straight after I shot them. So I made sure Lulu knew what I was doing. Also there were a few sport shots, and I really appreciated that he gave the pictures his all, as I could tell that it wasn’t at all easy. But the truth is that Lulu used to workout seriously in order to lose weight. I felt my images should show that side of Lulu, and he agreed.
Would you say your images are staged; or are you showing the viewer a look into reality, into Lulu’s normal life?
You can say all the images are staged; but the story behind the images is based on truth, because in the pictures he is eating in his favourite restaurant, or holding his favourite toy, having fun with his best friends, or even alone in his favourite pyjamas – everything I asked him to do was inspired by his real life.
Even if Lulu is at the centre of this series, the environment plays a big role. How important are architecture and details to you?
Environments are always important to me: they not only help for the colours and composition, they shares stories and moods. In one picture, Lulu was standing in a very beautiful garden, in Yuyuan, the most famous garden in Shanghai. In another picture he was dressed in shiny yellow in a dark green garden, because since the first day I met Lulu I always felt he was shining: his smile, his personality, his colour – everything about him was shining, and I love it. That’s why I put him in that environment – maybe you can see the shining flower in the dark garden.
Colour also seems to serve the composition in your images…
Colour is the mood, it’s the flavour of the photo. It helps the viewer to capture the right mood for the story. I have to say that the Leica M 10R has a great colour system; it produces great work thanks to the beautiful lens and the upgraded sensor, it’s rich and atmospheric. I love it and I didn’t do any colouring in post production – it’s just the organic Leica flavour.
How was your experience with the camera?
I always say that a good camera must have a sexy look, that makes you want to touch it. I have to say the M10-R is the sexiest one; and, as far as functionality is concerned, it has everything a professional needs. It has its own visual personality, which you can have great fun with.
What was your time frame when working on this series? What changes occurred over the course of the production?
The preparation took three weeks and the actual shooting four days. I had planned many environments to tell different stories about Lulu; but after two days I started to know him better, and he began to show his emotional side. So I changed my plan and started to focus on his emotional side. The facial close-ups and the nudity pictures made the whole portrait more complete.
You work as a fashion photographer and a portraitist, so people are always at the centre of your attention. What is it that fascinates you about them?
Experiences make people different; every person is like a unique book. They don’t just look different, they tell different stories, they show you different perspectives for seeing the world. They’re not just my models, they are my experiences, they make me better.
What did you learn during the sessions with Lulu?
I met a great person, and we became friends. I shared who Lulu is with the world, and I can feel that the world loves Lulu too. There is no better thing.
Trunk Xu is one of China’s most renowned magazine photographers. Inspired by Magnum in his early career, his work has matured along with China’s rising fashion and entertainment industries. His oeuvre comfortably embraces luxury, fashion, beauty and automobiles. He has worked for magazines such as Vogue, Bazaar, GQ and Esquire, and for brands such as Tiffany, Xiaomi and Huawei. Find our more about his photography on his Instagram channel.