I remember exactly where I was when I found out Ren Hang killed himself.
Ren Hang 任航 (1987-2017) was a celebrated photographer and poet who burst onto the international art scene with his erotic and playful images of himself and his boyfriend, as well as his friends and family. He also wrote openly about his internal conflicts and mental health on his blog, My Depression. Above all, he is someone who depicted his subjects with tenderness and dignity.
Ren Hang’s generous images of young Chinese desire transformed what I considered possible for myself, and his suicide last March made me reflect on the relationships we form with people from afar. “Deep End” is a piece of graphic fiction in which I mourn the loss of Ren Hang and reflect upon the joy his work brings me. In the wake of his death, I revisited his photographs and obsessively swam laps in the university pool. Afterwards, I devoured bowls of white rice and dreamt of diving into giant rice cookers with other androgynous Chinese bodies. Bathing in that rice became a metaphor for the sense of belonging I feel when encountering Ren’s pictures. “Deep End” is a tribute to the fantasies that blossom when recognizing parts of myself I once thought should be hidden forever.