Chen Man: China's 'Annie Leibovitz' is changing how the world sees China

Story highlights

  • Watch CNN Style's interview with Chen Man and her works in the video above
  • Chen Man is China's leading fashion photographer
  • Surreal photos fuse Chinese and Western themes

Beijing, China (CNN)As China becomes increasingly important in the world of fashion, one photographer is leading the scene — 35-year-old Beijing native Chen Man.

Chen Man: Is this China's Annie Leibovitz?
Chen Man: Is this China's Annie Leibovitz?

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    Chen Man: Is this China's Annie Leibovitz?

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Chen Man: Is this China's Annie Leibovitz? 01:42
Firmly established as the country's go-to fashion photographer, her work has featured across a range of leading publications, including Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and i.D.
    Nor is her fame limited to within China.
    As well as shooting a veritable A-to-Z list of Chinese celebrities, international stars such as Sophie Marceau, Rihanna, Nicole Kidman and Victoria Beckham have also posed for her.
    CNN Style pays a visit to Chen Man's studio in downtown Beijing, as she prepares to shoot back-to-back spreads of China's leading lady Fan Bingbing (rated by Forbes as the world's fourth top-earning actress in 2015), and glamorous Taiwanese screen siren Shu Qi.

    Eastern themes

    Chen's work is immediately identifiable. Highly-stylized through the use of modern post-production techniques, and incorporating a range of eastern themes and iconography, her shoots can be viewed as representative of a new aspirational China.
    During her meeting with CNN Style, Chen discusses the continuing influence of her childhood in Beijing, and how growing up in the city's hutongs -- the capital's historic tightly-woven neighborhoods -- during a time when food was sparse in the winter, neighbors lived in close quarters, and space was communal, has shaped her outlook on life.
    Like her peers, Chen has witnessed enormous change in Beijing, and has sought to document the profound effect those changes have had on her generation, known as the balinghou, or those born after the 1980s.
    Her craft has spanned the wide range of magazine covers, commercial shoots, fine art photography and extends to other modes of expression, such as her lesser-known traditional paintings.
    Next spring, Chen will hold an exhibition of these works and her photographs, at Tai Miao, an ancient temple in the Forbidden City.