Masculinity and its discontents are familiar ground for many photographers, however the discussion around this work always seems to be undertaken in US terms. Commissioned by Open Eye Gallery for the LOOK Photo Biennial 2019, Yan Wang Preston has sought to investigate how gender is understood by young, male Chinese students studying abroad in the city of Liverpool. The portraits she made on the stony wastes near Crosby Beach speak of the simultaneous solidity and uncertainty of her subjects' thought. In their varied responses, masculinity is responsibility, necessary for families, or to be cultivated against racial stereotypes. At the same time, Preston saw this project as revealing what she wanted to see in them, as much as what they saw in themselves.
I realised I was looking at them as the 'other'. I have a husband, I've had boyfriends, I've lived in a world full of men but I never became aware that I always looked at men as the other. How do you portray the other? I traced all the way back, I thought my initial question was forced anyway; 'what makes you a man?' Why did I even ask that?