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“Pain is the first sensation that I want viewers to experience,” explains Taiwanese photographer Yung Chen Lin, otherwise known as “3cm”, whose criticisms pendulate between beautiful and grotesque; “this is because the sensation of pain helps people empathize with the subject”. The most distinctive elements throughout the photographer’s series are body manipulation and the female form in its various manifestations. Bodies are seemingly distorted, flesh is mutilated; the female body is restrained and disciplined.

Beyond the immediate shock value of this striking, surrealist aesthetic, in Red String 3cm examines the nature of female sexuality in a patriarchal society and questions arbitrary and senseless gender norms. “The red string in these photos is metaphorical of the great faith women have in pursuing marriage and their eagerness to change in the name of love. How can a mere piece of red string enable someone to reach salvation, and can the illusion be true?”. The absence of facial expression is intentional, allowing the audience to insert their own emotions into the photographs, permitting them to let their imagination pave the way.

Much of 3cm’s work explores the themes of sexuality, mortality and religion through similarly harrowing images which consciously disturb us, or at least make the viewer feel a certain degree of discomfort. “The sensation of pain has the potential to make the viewer resonate more with the model and the issues at stake, and consequentially makes them reflect on the validity of certain preconceived ideas in society”, explains 3cm, “transferring my ideas and observations to the image tends to raise public awareness better than through my words.”

Generating a stir amongst the crowds without presenting the message too directly is not always straightforward, admits 3cm: “I prefer to be indirect, yet sometimes struggle to achieve a balance between telling the story too directly and being too abstract and uninterpretable.” The subtleties of poetry and the emotional response it is able to concurrently elicit have possibly aided 3cm on the pursuit of this objective. Aside from visual inspiration, he empathizes that his single greatest influence comes from poetry. In the future he plans to create visuals based on the text from Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse.

The photographer’s popularity on Instagram also enables him to maintain an interactive dialogue between himself and his viewers, developing a space where he can learn about human psychology, witnessing first-hand what compositional elements possess the capacity to generate empathy in strangers.

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All images © 3cm

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