Scrolling down the Instagram Explore page, an image catches the eye. Women on the mountainside, their heads sticking out of a semi-transparent fabric that connects them all. The caption reads: “Here I am! To day 365! But I’m not stopping there, I will continue to create beautiful images, there are more to come. This post comes from @zhonglin_, otherwise known as Zhong Lin, a self-taught photographer with 394,000 followers on Instagram.
Zhong Lin was born in Malaysia, raised in a culturally diverse environment. At any time, she “could eat Malaysian food while watching Hollywood movies, with Indian music playing in the background, while talking to my family in Mandarin.” In college, she took a photography course because she was fascinated by the development of black and white film. She ended up with the lowest mark in the class and her teacher took her aside to remind Lin that not everyone is cut out for photography. Besides this class, Zhong Lin is a self-taught photographer. She has traveled the world filming in various circumstances, sometimes commercial, sometimes personal.
In his work, Zhong Lin draws from multiple sources to create his signature style. She draws inspiration from her culturally diverse upbringing, as well as the favorite films of her movie-loving father. Three films in particular: Wong-Kar Wai’s love mood and fallen angelsas well as Quentin Tarantino pulp Fictionhave a striking cinematic style, which is reflected in Lin’s work.
Its creative process is: it has no process. Zhong Lin works spontaneously. She chooses her subjects based on chemistry and shoots instinctively. Sometimes she arrives on set with an idea in mind and a playlist curated to match the desired mood. In the end, Lin seeks emotion and the human in his photos.
Inspiration and the creative process combine to create Zhong Lin’s signature style. Viewers will immediately be drawn in by his surreal compositions. Flowers, insects, animals or fruits combine with models in unexpected but clever ways. Fabric and makeup add extra dimension and texture. Silky colors juxtapose, bouncing the eye around the image. Overall, Lin’s work is sensual and vibrant.
The only centralized way to view Zhong Lin’s work is through his Instagram. No artist site, just Instagram. Lin chose Instagram as her platform because of its ease of sharing and tagging personal and commercial work. Plus, it’s easy to talk to and get feedback from its audience. And due to the universal and borderless nature of Instagram, more people can consume and comment on its work. Rather than giving her work a title, Lin adds hashtags to her posts. These are added after filming with the aim of making the photos look different and inviting the audience to interpret the images. For example, an alien figure with an anthurium flower on its nose is captioned #pinocchio.
Fashion and editorial photography is what Zhong Lin is most committed to. She has been featured in GQ China, Perfect Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Taiwan and the list goes on. She has also been commissioned by Nike, Puma, SK-II, Opening Ceremony, GCDS and others. His commercial work sits impressively between fashion photography and fine art photography. However, in these scenarios, an editor or director has the final say, limiting some of Lin’s expression.
Zhong Lin’s best-known personal work is Project 365. When COVID-19 hit, Lin found herself trapped in Taiwan. Knowing she would have plenty of free time, she decided to embark on her most ambitious project yet. Every day for a year, she took, edited and posted a photo. His first post was dated April 23, 2020, along with the caption: “I want to rediscover what it means to start from scratch. No limits, no borders and no definition.
For the following year, Zhong Lin kept his promise. 365 days of pure inspiration and expression. She shot within her means, using herself as a subject, working with her assistant, or networking with whoever she could. As news of her ambitious project spread, Lin gained more attention both on Instagram and in the photography world. Given Taiwan’s excellent handling of COVID cases, Lin was able to have teams of makeup artists, stylists and models for shoots, but sometimes she opted for a simpler shoot. However, she quickly struggled to balance Project 365 with her growing business plans, as well as the pandemic and other life changes around her.
Despite the odds, Zhong Lin managed to reach day 365. On April 23, 2021, she posted the image described in the first paragraph. After the celebrations, her caption continued to say, “No matter which leg of my 365 you joined, whether it’s day 1, day 183 or today, you’re part of the journey and I wish you the best. welcome.”
Now Lin is more successful than ever. Her feed often hosts her recent editorial work for notable publications such as Carcy Magazine, Whitelies Magazine, and Perfect Magazine. As for his personal work, his style is more powerful due to his daily practice of Project 365. She commonly uses red or orange juxtaposed with blue. His work focuses more on obscured objects or figures rather than direct portraits. Leaning towards abstraction, his images became more hypnotic and his portfolio more fascinating.
Go follow @zhonglin_ on Instagram! She tends to delete her old work, so check it out while you can. Also be sure to see her saved Instagram stories, small galleries here and here, and look for her magazine covers!