MDes Graphics/​Illustration/​Photography School of Design

Meihui Zhang

I am a photographer with a background in fashion design. My work involves still-life photography, employing metaphorical imagery to explore the issues of gender, identity and body image. Materiality is an important aspect in the work I make. My work is focuses on female identity using hair as a symbol. I use it to represent my own worries and fears, this draws on the Budhist symbolism and Hair also provides a metaphor for the fragility of the human body. My project also reflects on the social significance and aesthetic values societies attach to hair in terms of status and beauty.



Hair is manipulated, shaped, collected and traded. It says a lot about us, but we rarely mention it when discussing art. As
Kobena Mercer puts it in a widely quoted article, hair “is never a straightforward biological “fact’ because it is almost always
groomed, prepared, cut, hidden and generally worked on’ This practice socialises hair, making it the medium for important
‘statements’ about self and society, and the code of values that bind them, or not. In this project, I explore the possibilities of
hair from a photographic perspective. I have divided my journey into three stages, the first in which I explore the detached hair
itself, the second in which I explore the place of the wig in aesthetics, and the third in which I explore the relationship between
hair and the human body. In my opinion hair itself is fascinating, it doesn’t really decay and it contains a certain amount of
human DNA, it’s like a bond between people. With a sense of eternity, or something more than just transience, I think it reflects
the fragile yet resilient nature of the human being. The separated hair is undeniably dead, but still stubbornly alive. It is a product
of man, as wool is a product of sheep, silk is a product of silk pupae. It is the material evidence of the self, which proclaims the
existence of its reproductive body in the form of shedding. Hair has been given so many different meanings in different cultural
contexts-. Hair means care, hair means race, culture, it means defiance and it means punishment, it is carved into display, it is
sacred and to be protected. It is private and intimate, but it is also public and political.