There is very little that 23-year-old Margaret Zhang doesn't do. She's a ballerina and an Instagram star (with 828,000 followers) in addition to being a stylist, writer, creative director, and consultant in the fashion industry. Also, she graduated from law school this year. Somehow, the stylish multi-hyphenate managed to find the time to release a book of photo essays in-between, which she also styled and art directed.
Titled "In the Youth of Our Fury: A Volume of Photo Essays by Margaret Zhang," this is Zhang's first book, which was commissioned by Eastland and released in November. "Make no mistake," she told W magazine. "This is no ‘fashion journal’ or pseudo magazine. The imagery captured pegs garments in a supporting role to provoke thought on a specific issue."
Born in Australia, issues of sustainability and environmentalism are of increasing importance to Zhang, who sees these photo essays as an encapsulation of her generations rage against an "outdated and counterproductive status quo." And if you still aren't convinced that Zhang can create socially conscious and stylish images, wait until you read her writing.
What does the title, “In the Youth of Our Fury” mean to you?
Given the current global political climate, the state of capitalism in the western world, and cultural conflict in the world at large, I think a lot of my peers can certainly identify with an inherent ‘rage’ at a broken system, in many regards, that has had an increasingly personal impact over the past decade. New schools of thought on a range of areas effecting our generation are finally coming to maturity and actionable fruition, and the foundation of these are in a fundamental ‘fury’ with the outdated and counterproductive status quo.
Which locations did you visit in Australia and why?
The most memorable locations for me were definitely tied to Australia’s unique natural landscape, which is always refreshing, in comparison to living in New York's concrete grid. We shot at Joost Bakker’s family farm in Monbulk, just outside Melbourne, and it was beyond stunning — not only for the incredible produce being cultivated all around us, and the 100-percent waste free ingenuity of it all, but also spending time with someone like Joost, who is so passionate about his cause and a visionary by anyones standards, in his natural habitat. This no doubt brought an extra dimension and depth to that photo essay.
How long have you been taking photographs? Do you remember there being a turning point when you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I learned to shoot on film when I was around 12 or 13-years-old. Capturing motion has always been a part of the way that I view visual and performing arts. I shot a lot on film during my ballet career. I always loved the way that you can tell so many stories through a still image. I ironically decided to pursue it more professionally during my first year in law school.
What were some challenges you faced when shooting the photos for this book? Was there a particularly challenging photo or day on set?
Unusually, I shot the book in three-and-a-half weeks. We shot every day with 5:00 a.m. call times and edited all of the essays in the span of two weeks, which I’m aware is not the way that people usually produce books. I’m impressed with all of my team for tolerating my delirium throughout the entire process.
Did you style the shoots as well, or just photograph them? Yes, I styled, art directed and shot all the images in the book. I personally find that photography and styling, particularly on very directional storylines like this, go hand in hand. When each essay is such a product of my own opinions, based on my observations on society and my contemporaries, it almost wouldn’t make sense to bring in another perspective on such a personal expression.
What are some goals for yourself in 2017?
Working on this book and attempting to stay objectively informed on recent world events has really made me realize how much information I had been forced to consume while I was studying, and how funneled my view on the world has become simply by virtue of the calibre of human I interact with in my day to day, the specific publications and broadcast platforms I elect to absorb, and how that algorithmically plays into the abridged version of ‘reality' I therefore receive. As such, my 2017 will be very much about taking a step back and forcing myself to explore more diverse perspectives, immersing myself in unfamiliar cultures and returning to the fundamentals of the visual and performing art forms that have shaped my career thus far.
Watch Margaret Zhang's video for Wes Gordon exclusively on W magazine.