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Professional Scores First Solo Exhibit as Student in Photography School

Tian Luyang already had a professional photography career, but believed he can still do better. That’s why he moved to San Francisco from China to attend Academy of Art University’s photography school, where he is currently earning his master’s degree.

Going back to school didn’t mean putting his practice on hold though. Taking photos is so deeply embedded in his system already that he simply can’t not take photos. And so he goes around the city, camera on hand, snapping away at interesting everyday things. As it so happens, there’s no shortage of that in San Francisco, which makes it a perfect shooting ground for Luyang.

Tian Luyang - From Folsom to Fashion
Tian Luyang (R) with guests at his solo exhibit.

It was during one of these photo walks that he stumbled upon what now seems to be a serendipitous encounter with Lynn Luckow. As Luyang walked past a gallery along Post Street, he got curious enough to step inside and chatted up with Luckow.

As it turned out, the gallery was actually a salon run by Lynn Luckow, who also happened to be fan of the Academy. “I have been attending Academy of Art events for 25 years, at least,” shared Luckow, a testament to his appreciation of the products coming out of the art school.

 From what started as a casual chat eventually turned into a full-blown opportunity for Luyang to showcase his talents. “I was just completely blown away,” explained Luckow on how he decided to stage Luyang’s exhibit. “I open it up for pop-up shows for artists I believe in.”

It was belief well placed on the artist. Luckow’s salon-turned-gallery was soon filled up with Luyang’s work: a collection of some 60 portraitures shot both as a work for school or for his personal project.

Tian Luyang has had experience as a professional, but it was only when he entered photography school in Academy of Art that he had his first solo exhibit.

Tian Luyang - From Folsom to Fashion
Tian Luyang’s first solo exhibit: From Folsom to Fashion

From Academy Classroom to First Solo Exhibit

From Folsom to Fashion: An Exhibit of Portraiture, which ran in October 2019, was an arresting display of photos depicting various faces that Luyang has encountered throughout his stay in the city. One section of the exhibit displayed Halloween-themed black-and-white photos. The story behind how the photos came to be was just as interesting as the photos themselves.

For three consecutive Halloweens, from 2016 to 2018, Luyang put himself in the thick of the celebrations along the colorful Castro Street, and then shot photos of the revelers all donned up in their finest seasonal wear.

However, he didn’t do this alone. He had his team from SERAPHLIA—a commercial photography studio he founded—along with him, setting up lights and a background to complete a make-shift photography studio right there on the streets. It is from their collection of some 200 shots that the best 10 were chosen from and hung on the wall of the gallery on Post Street.

The Art of Photography is Not Just a Solo Act

While most people would believe that photography is a one-man show, Luyang practices otherwise. He’s always been a team player, from the time he worked as a wedding photographer abroad to the time he founded his own studio company here in San Francisco.

Tian Luyang - From Folsom to Fashion
FSH alumna Gardenia Zhou and ARH alumna Lamiae Ameziane’s collaboration. Photo by Tian Luyang.

It is this willingness to network and collaboration that Luyang quickly established connections with other Academy students. The result: interesting cross-department collaborations such as the one involving School of Fashion alumna Gardenia Zhou and School of Architecture graduate Lamiae Ameziane.

For Luyang, this is just another aspect in his growth as an artist. Continually trying out new things, figuring out new interests and how to fulfill his creative ideas—whether on his own or with a little help from his friends—is something that he actively pursues.

After successfully putting up his very first solo exhibit, Luyang still stands by the importance of networking and collaboration. “We need to work together to enter the industry,” he said. “That’s the key: teamwork.”

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that his main advice to fellow students who would like to have their own gallery exhibit too even before completing their photography degree is to “[B]e friendly to your classmates and also to your teachers.”

“We shouldn’t just spend time on homework. We should reach out and keep creating new works.”

Original article by Cristina Schreil of AcademyArtUNews,

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