The Lives of Lolitas
A new personal project from photographer Shirley Yu explores the Lolita subculture community, which originated in Japan. Lolita fashion is a mix of Victorian and Roccoco styles, with specific sub-styles that include “gothic” “sweet,” “baby,” “classic” and “casual.” The commitment to the Lolita look can go beyond fashion and become a full lifestyle, Yu explains, with members adopting a different personality to match their chosen aesthetic. Since the 1970s, the community has spread beyond Japan by way of magazines, the Internet and anime conventions.
Yu’s portrait series focuses on the community in New York City, where she is based, though she may expand to other cities as the project continues. “Some of the Lolitas that I’ve met in New York City work in intense professions like pharmaceuticals or corporate retail,” she says. “In a way, I can relate to people who have felt like they have lived a ‘double life,’ or that they need to. I’m the same. Since I was a teenager, I’ve known a lot of responsibilities, expectations and anxieties. At times, I wanted to escape to a place within my mind where the feelings of creativity, merriment, curiosity, and gaiety that I experienced during girlhood were eternal. So it’s an introspective reflection and experience for me to shoot this project, as well.”
Check out Shirley’s work below and follow her on Instagram @shirleyshotyu
All photos © Shirley Yu / shirleyshotyu.com