Kenneth Lam is a London/Hong Kong-based photographer who creates narrative images that provide a unique lens onto heritage and identity. His carefully composed still lifes and evocative portraits are highly autobiographical, with direct symbolic references to his own memories and experiences: white tablecloths from the Chinese restaurant his father owns and fresh fish from the wet market in his grandma’s ancestral village in Hong Kong. Behind each meticulously crafted composition, there is a steadfast sense of fragility, a calculated understanding of vulnerability. With influences spanning from Irving Penn and Marius Hansen to Dutch still lifes, Kenneth Lam approaches photography with a compassionate eye and an open mind, using the camera to parse through issues of character without fear or judgment. In his newest body of work, Lam presents photographic portraits of himself and his queer friends who have helped him on his journey to self-acceptance and self-love, and he aims to expose their capacity for strength and radical vulnerability.
Douwe was one of the first queer figures in Lam’s life who he felt he could look up to. After meeting at a wine bar, the two became close and had extensive conversations about self-acceptance and self-love. Douwe shared that their biological family struggled to come to terms with their queerness, which initially fostered deep anger and resentment within them. But through a process of self-acceptance and empathy, Douwe learned to come to terms with these hardships and find companionship and family in their queer friends. To photograph Douwe’s vulnerability, Lam used soft lighting and captured their kind gaze.
Lam first met Jason, a singer, and performer from Hong Kong, when he was commissioned to photograph a drag show in London in 2019. In getting to know each other, the two realized that they had a lot in common and had faced similar hardships in their early lives. Both of them had difficult coming out experiences and were tokenized for their Asian identity. To portray Jason, Lam took two photographs: one representing his upbringing in Hong Kong and one representing his adult life. As a child in Hong Kong, Jason was badly bullied in school and was rejected by their parents. But when they moved to London and found their queer community, Jason experienced an exuberant rebirth.
Read the full interview in Issue 3.