Linfen, a city of 80,000 in the northwestern Chinese province of Shanxi, isn’t famous for its fashion. The city is best known for high levels of pollution caused by the local coal-mining industry. In the portraits of New York-based photographer Quentin Shih, though, it’s a glamorous place.
In his series “9 Dollars For Fashion Photography,” Shih photographed Linfen locals outfitted in knock-off clothing and accessories imitating the latest fashions from the likes of Dior and Prada. He chose the city based on its depiction in a Chinese movie about small town life, and spent three weeks there scouting locations, casting locals as models, and shooting. Clothes were bought or rented from a local market for just $9 an item.
The series, Shih tells Co.Design, was not motivated by a desire to capture the fashions as much as it was “about the young people and lifestyle of a typical small town in mid China.” Yet the fluorescent images, tinged by colored light, highlight a counterfeit economy where a Chanel (esque) clutch goes for less than most American sandwiches. The models, largely photographed alone near a desolated highway, are solo fashion pioneers, isolated from the rest of the world.