“Visible Darkness” is a part of my “Blue” trilogy. The title is inspired by the phrase “Blue is Darkness Made Visible,” written by Derek Jarman [a contemporary film director, artist, and advocate for gay rights]. Jarman’s words, composed after a slow decline in health that included the deterioration of his sight, affected me strongly when I read them. After all, I—like Jarman—was confronted with the potential of a sightless life at a young age. I had found four crescents at the base of my corneas and believed that I was going to go blind. In response, I found myself seeking out the color blue.

Blue for me became a space between visible and invisible, reality and fantasy, life and death. With Jarman’s words in mind, I worked some elements of modern art into my photographs; their dream-like logic allowed me to play with the reality I presented.

I thought constantly about the moon: the same moon that shines today also shone on our ancestors, and yet what we see is not the present reality—this incarnation of the moon has already passed. The present is not only the present, but a collection of past moments as well.

—Shuwei Liu

Shuwei Liu was a finalist in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016. When asked to look back at his series from last year, here were a few pieces of advice he offered about creating strong portrait-work:

On making a connection with your subject:
“Always love and respect the people you photograph. It’s not just portraits that you’re making, but spiritual spaces that you’re creating between the two of you.”

On creating unique work:
“Try to innovate from within rather than following the new trends. Making work in your own style—and taking it to an extreme—is another form of innovation.”