CHINA: PUNKS, by Katharina Hesse

IPA Photography, PROJECTS 12 Comments

In the spring of 1998, a handful of youngsters teamed up to unofficially rebel against conformist Chinese life in Beijing.

They shaved their heads, and founded bands with names like Brain Failure, 69 and Anarchy Boys. Although some of the punks came from upper-middle class families, they chose to live in self-imposed poverty, some were drop-outs.

The Scream Bar and its surrounding dusty alleyways, located in the student district, became the center of youthful anti-life until it was finally closed in 2000, forcing the bands to move on. In the course of time, while some gave up, others like Brain Failure found commercial success, winning contracts with record companies and even touring abroad.

When one sees Xiao Rong and his band Brain Failure performing in front of thousands of their fans at Chinese music festivals these days, one inevitably think back to their humble beginnings in the dusty alleyways of the late nineties.

Photographs & Text: Katharina Hesse | Website:


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Comments 12

  1. I visited your site to see the photos dealing with ‘human negotiations’ collection. Having lived in Bangkok for the past 6+ years I was curious to see how you would document the sex trade, particularly in the city. While I find the photos to be attractive and well done, I can’t help but find the style in which they’re taken to be distracting. Stylized in a cinematic way and with such saturated colors it almost appears to be something I would associate with fashion photography (staged?). It’s not clear the commentary that’s being made about the subjects in the photo.

    I find the environment shots most interesting since the subjects appear to be very conscious of the fact that they’re being photographed. The spaces give the greatest clue as to what’s really going on.

    Enjoyed the China pics and looking forward to see how the project progresses. Thanks for sharing.

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