Photographer Annie Lai, has captured with her latest series the unique territory that lies between two cultures by shooting portraits of Asian women living in London who find themselves in this exact spot. Neither here, nor there. Not foreigners, but not fully integrated either.
She was born in New Zealand, raised in China, and now based in London. The artist seeks to portray the concept of "home" through her images, she attempts to transmit those feelings of comfort and belonging associated to a place. Lai put together a project entitled “In Between”, a project which aims to offer solace to those who can't seem to find their place, their home, in society, making these stories visible to those who might overlook them.
Annie shows intimacy, vulnerability, and honesty in each story. Fragility and transparency reign in her work, which explores the search for identity.
In between begins in 2018, after a personnel crisis followed by the loss of her home in China. Over the years, Lai moved to different cities, but she always kept China as her home. It was always the place where she felt her roots were, and as such, the distance and emotional separation created a feeling of loss of belonging, and deep loss of identity. This feeling motivated the artist to look for more women like her in to share this experience, to come together in an act of expression, to show the world how they feel, and that they are not alone.
In Annie's series of photographs we can observe the style of the portraits, they are respectful portraits, close enough to get a feel of the subject, but far enough so as to not intrude. The noticeable facial expressions of the subjects denote show innocence and sadness, and a state of deep thought. On the other hand, security and acceptance shines through. Simple, transparent.
Annie Lai's delicacy in her work is more than evident, emotion and sensitivity are right at the centre of it. Lai began to pursue photography because of her mother, who loved taking photos and stacking up family albums packed with memories.
And that's how, where, and when, the spark of photography lit up for the young artist. Now, Lai uses it as a tool to feel, and understand, the stories of each individual, as means of assimilating and subsequently exhibiting a vision and an experience. Thus transforming it into a piece of art.
"It's a very genuine interaction with a lot of chatter and relaxation between takes. I often come back after a while, the dynamics subtly change and it is also reflected in the photographs. Conversations are different for everyone, including basics of everyday life, hobbies, hometown, etc., or delve into something more abstract."
– Annie Lai for It's Nice That Magazine.
Immigrants are increasingly accepted, but between acceptance and integration there is a great gap that must be filled, and that is the goal of Annie Lai with In Between. It is important that each individual feels valued, comfortable, and integrated, and there are many people who do not feel that way. Thankfully, Lai's photographs have been responsible for giving a voice to that community.
Annie Lai started this project as a personal necessity, but now the importance and the objective is much broader. She promises that In Between will continue to grow, move, and learn, to show the rhythm of life, and to offer comfort, and a sense of community. Especially those who still seek her place.