Menu

Portraits of Chinese Hairdressers and Their Humble Living Quarters

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyChen Feng, 20, Shi Shang Biao Bang (Fashion Representation Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Feng knows several words of English. The salon where he works is in the middle of a renovation. Awaiting completion, he spends his time in a small room which he rents from his employer.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyJia Yue, 17, Yi Du Fa Yi (Metropolitan Art Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Yue just started working at the Metropolitan Art Salon. Her main job is washing hair. Her employer does not want us to visit the dormitory where Yue lives, not far from the salon. She points out this pink tiled building.

Swiss photographers Stéphanie Borcard and Nicolas Métraux currently reside in Bangkok, Thailand, focusing primarily on youth and their relationship with society. Their series China – Love Cutting is a contrast of private and public personas as they document young hairdressers and their humble living spaces in western China. Far away from Beijing and Shanghai, the rapidly growing economy of Chengdu claims around 14 million residents, most pouring in from the local countryside.

Jobs that offer accommodation are particularly prized by newcomers, and frequently stylists must share rooms and sometimes beds with other salon employees. Many will live for years in these conditions before being able to afford their own home. Though attempting to appear fashion-forward and street-wise, each hairdresser photographed faces the harsh reality of survival in their new city life. China – Love Cutting is a visual comparison of the opportunity and sacrifice necessary to “make it” in the contemporary urban landscape.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyYang Wei, 22, Lang Man Kong Jian (Romantic Space Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Yang Wei’s Gold fish aquarium. Wei will become a father in a few months. He lives with his wife in a well-maintained apartment on the fourth floor of a small building with no elevator.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyChuan Xin Zeng, 18, Hua Man Xing Xiang She Ji (Flower Vine Image Design Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

View from the rooftop. A few months were enough to convince Xin Zeng that he did not like his new job. He left the Flower Vine Image Design Salon to work nights as a waiter in a Chengdu gay bar.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyYi Bo, 19, Hua Man Xing Xiang She Ji (Flower Vine Image Design Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Like his colleague Xin Zeng, Bo made the decision to change his job. He left Chengdu to return to his birthplace, 100 kilometers north of the capital city.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyYu Yan, 28, Wei Mei Jin Jian (Only Beauty Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Yan has been working in Chengdu for four years. He rents a room in the apartment shared by employees of the Only Beauty Salon. A dozen of his colleagues share three other rooms arranged in dormitory-style.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyZhang Liang, 23, Fa Xiang Tian Xia (Best Hairdo Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Liang is renting a small apartment with his sister in a popular area. Access is via an entrance portal closely monitored by a concierge. Constituting the core of large blocks, these neighborhoods are often invisible at first glance.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyLuo Hai, 22, Fa Min Jia (Hair Premium Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Hai is sharing a dormitory with five other colleagues. Occupying the upper bench of a bunk bed, he stuck posters of his basketball idols to the ceiling.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyWang Yuan Meng, 20, Xiao Wu (Small Wizard Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

A steep staircase leads to a tiny space just above the hair salon. Meng lives with eight other employees in this room in which a kitchen has been installed.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_PhotographyYang Hao, 17, Jue Shi Ge Diao (Duke Stylish Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

The owner of the Duke Stylish Salon lives with his employees in an apartment in the suburbs of Chengdu. Hao has is own room with a balcony. He only travels home to see his family once a year, but he sends them money regularly.

Stephanie Borcard and Nicolas Metraux

Yu Yong Qiang, 23, Fa Min Jia (Hair Premium). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

A dormitory, with personal belongings lying here and there. A little private space for Qiang who is sharing this room with five other colleagues.

Stephanie Borcard and Nicolas Metraux

Jin Shan, 18, Xin Ming Ming (New Dawn Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

After three years working in a salon in Beijing, Shan decided to return to Sichuan to be closer to her family. This experience will enable her to reach a position of responsibility in New Dawn Salon. She shares the dormitory with her colleagues—they envy her position.

Stephanie_Borcard_Nicolas_Metraux_Photography

He Xiao Bing, 17, Piao Liang Fa Xing (Beautiful Hairstyle Salon). Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, April 2012.

Bing wanted to show us his dormitory but the door was locked. He doesn’t have his own key.