Fotograf Magazine

Lan-Xi Ruan

Soft Animal

During the third lockdown of 2021, Chinese artist Lan-Xi Ruan created a series of minimalist staged photographs on multiple nightly walks through Berlin with her friends. After years of staying away from China, her homeland, the artist tells a personal story of nostalgia, belonging and feelings of displacement.

In Soft Animal, she attempts to transform her psychological state into a surreal dreamlike tale with the protagonists seen as creatures, animals isolated in nature, trying to hide from an unseen predator or becoming one themselves. In interactions with their surroundings and by exposing moments of childlike playfulness, the artist creates a new world, a mysterious playground in which the feelings of solitude and danger coexist.

In 2022, the series was made into a dummy photo book. The title was inspired by a verse from the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”


Born in Changsha, China, Lan-Xi Ruan is a filmmaker and visual artist based in Berlin, Germany. She took her second degree at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB). Her semi-autobiographical film Berlin, Without Me is currently in postproduction and has been one of the finalists of the Doha Film Fund in 2021.