Sarah Mei Herman
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I started the Touch series in 2014, during a four-month artist residency at CEAC in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen. I was curious about the cultural differences I encountered there, but I really wanted to portray something universally recognisable: the meaning of friendship and love, in all its intensity and vulnerability. Meeting my subjects in Xiamen’s streets or at the university campus, I started photographing several young adults – primarily women – and their intimate relationships.

Many of the young women I met were in queer relationships. Whilst homosexuality is no longer prohibited by law in China, it remains a taboo across society, particularly amongst older generations. None of those I photographed have been able to speak openly with their parents about their sexual identities and preferences; I therefore feel privileged that each one was willing to share so much of their private world with me.

I’ve returned to Xiamen several times since 2014, and I try to photograph the same women on each visit – capturing the tenderness they share, and the things that have changed or remained over time. Fortuitously, three of those I first photographed in Xiamen have since moved to Europe, allowing me the opportunity to continue portraying them. With each photographic session, external pressures fade away for a moment, and the bonds between us are further strengthened.