Li Joshua, aka Xylon, seeks to explore the darker aspects of mainstream fashion. His evocative works are a reflection of his own inner tensions. He explains the world inside his head for us and how this translates into his ‘dark’ style of photography.
Your Instagram profile is very moody, especially the violence shots, is this your general style or did you incorporate more moody lighting for this shoot in particular?
I think a lot of my work has always been inherently ‘dark’. I gravitate towards the unsettling feel of moody lighting and tense subject matter. I just love the drama of it and the visual dynamic it creates. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the other end of the spectrum, I just can’t see myself shooting a wedding anytime soon hahaha.
So would you say photography is a creative outlet for you to express your own inner ‘darkness’? Or does it evoke a deep sense of passion which just naturally translates into the more tense subject matter?
It’s been a while since I got this introspective…
Initially I had a rather purist approach to the practice. I believed as an artist I could only create if I had a strong enough concept or if I had something really important to say.
I have a very different perspective now where I use it more in a cathartic way. I process feelings I don’t understand through my work. I explore different facets of identity and character through the people that I photograph. I just use my work to get a greater understanding of the world inside my head.
What made you choose Canon? Which model do you use? And what is your go-to lens?
I was trained in college with a camera brand which will remain nameless, but I just felt there was a degree of complexity when using it which diluted the initial ‘feel’ of what I wanted to create. I didn’t have that issue with Canon. Its better suited to me from a user perspective and closely aligns my ideas to the output.
I use my ‘sentimental piece’ which is a canon 650D and when I’m feeling myself I’ll use the 80D when available. My go to lens is the 24mm-105mm but my 50mm never leaves my side.
Why do you like the 50mm so much?
I predominately gravitate towards portraits and exploring identity. I think in order to capture that character intimately, the 50mm does the job.
Do you find that entering another person’s space while you shoot changes the atmosphere and translates onto the end product?
No doubt, I think that’s why I spend so much time building a connection with the people I photograph. It has to be mutually beneficial as its an experience for all parties involved. If that connection is shared and organic then it definitely shows in the work.
What has your most challenging yet rewarding shoot been?
A simple fashion editorial photographed for Becca Blair which landed up in British Vogue. Challenging from the insanely tight time frames, but so rewarding as I got to scratch something off my creative bucket list.
What would your dream shoot be? Where would it be, who would you use as your model, set designer, make-up artist, etc?
Hmmmm thats a good one.
My ultimate would be photographing Björk for any project that she’d be working on at that point in time. I take a lot of influence from her work so would retire happy after that haha. I’m not too sold on shooting on location I kind of create my locations in my head so I don’t have any specific place so per say. I always enjoy working with local makeup artist ‘hellonom_‘ so that’s a given.
Photographing Tilda Swinton would come in a close second.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Probably settled in a new city, creating work that continues to push my ability and the mindsets and imaginations of others.
How do you feel you fit into the mindsets and imaginations of others?
I think if there’s one thing that appeals to folks about my work, it’s a sense of imagination. That child-like intrigue that we might have forgotten, but at the same time there’s a sense of discomfort which becomes addictive. I would like to think that the visual narrative of what I create pushes one into a land of make-believe. A place absent of rules, but at the same time governed by an emotive law. I measure each piece I create against my own checklist:
1. Does it defy the norm?
2. Will it evoke some sort of emotion?
3. Can this change a mindset or formulate an opinion?
If it does none of the above then I’ll start again.