Life is slow in Yunnan. People walk with no rush; the fields can wait. The clouds change form in slow motion; the lush mountains are great company. Even the birds chirp melodically and without strain; it’s just the way it is. In a place like that, a bicycle fits so well for exploring at the speed of the land. I came upon a child and his grandfather walking with their shadows along the rice fields and enjoying the caressing rays of the gentle sun. I got off my bicycle and began photographing them after getting their clear unspoken agreement. Then I saw alarm in their eyes as they gestured towards me; I turned around and watched my bicycle tumble with my second camera and my bag into the rice field. This man with grace, ease and a smile, put his grandson down, helped me lift my now damaged mode of transportation, with its dislocated wheel. He gestured to me and we communicated with my limited Mandarin as he helped carry my bicycle back the other way towards his home, his little grandson following us shyly. The man asked me to wait as he brought out his toolbox and slowly and methodically fixed the wheel and tested it. He smiled and his granddaughter joined them as they posed for a last photograph before I took off feeling lighter, happier, and grateful for the good people who give without counting the cost, who help because it is human to do so.
Every new journey gives me a renewed set of reasons to do what I love to do. I love the art of photography. Time stops when I am in the streets of a new place, meeting people, looking through their eyes, watching them from a distance as they do what they do, and feeling a rising sense of excitement at being part of it all. In my recent trip to the region of Yunnan around Dali, I had a lot of time to reflect and to ponder what it is about photography that keeps me traveling, venturing and adventuring in search of human connection. It came to me one early morning just before sunrise, it is the soul of the place, that is what meets me at those special moments and gives me permission to capture its magic. You may give it any other name you wish, for me, it’s the soul.
After about a 4 hour flight from Shanghai to Kunming in Yunnan and sorting out the small inevitable complications like changing cars, drivers, lunch and settling everyone to a journey of unexpected events, we set off to our first stop on the workshop, the town of Shiping.
After a first night not short of adventure and discovery in the streets of the old town, we set off in the morning with the freedom one gets after leaving a questionable hotel without having to look back.
All packed, cameras charged, armed with snacks and water bottles we set off only to discover that our bus (that we grew to love) had a flat tire. We were informed that the repairs will take longer than expected. When asked why, the answer was “people in these parts are just not efficient enough”. I swallowed the answered and decided to make the best of a bad situation.
I invited everyone to use the 2 hours to explore and we found ourselves in an unforgettable market! Photo opportunities everywhere, people, children, faces, color, it was wonderful.
During the time there, I was utterly charmed by a group of children who followed me around jumping, giggling, acting silly, jumping into every frame I tried to create. It then dawned in me that the best thing to do would be to just stop trying and instead of capture life, just live it. I played with them and my students photographed them and the whole affair was effervescent and a special gift to start the journey with.
It is wonderful to be reliving the adventure in Honghe through the stories and images as I busily plan the next one in Dali this coming June.
Have you ever been lost in the process of your art? Have you ever visited that place where time stands still and you are transported on the wings of creativity? So much peace attends this state and it is a wonderful gift to be in the presence of its happening.
Quirky, friendly, magical, puzzling, odd, beautiful, colorful, breathtaking, inspiring, legendary, mystical, smiling faces, enchanting grasslands, buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, overpowering cliffs over deep ocean waters, reflective beaches
… Wales, a land that filled me with awe.
Too small to be divided, too large to be swallowed, too beautiful to be ignored, too charming to be forgotten… and oh the way the sun kisses my Lebanon…
Big cities have this way of resembling beehives, busy, constantly moving. Most of these urban centers are jarring, fast, harsh, noisy, and unforgiving to all that is slow. Not Shanghai. Shanghai has a gentle flow about it, where people just glide by on their bicycles, slow enough to examine life around them and nod with recognition at friends in their neighborhood. A bicycle and tricycle culture, so much is moved around on wheels. As long as tradition lasts, this will be (at least to me) the greatest charm of Shanghai.
And it took us all by surprise, the first snow in Shanghai…
When I edit my photos, I set in motion a whole new process that allows me to see beyond the actual image. I begin to feel emotions and to imagine worlds that the image open doors to. So my initial photograph becomes a key, a starter and a catalyst to a brand new process. I leave myself open to what the moment suggests, what level of contrast it wants, what degree of clarity or blur, saturation or absence of color, and what lines to highlight, and inside of all this (which sometimes takes not longer than a few minutes), a new image is born, one that is layered with sketches of imagination and brush strokes of feeling. I attempt through that to marry the past with the now in anticipation of the art that might wish to join my future.
Wishing all my readers and subscribers a wonderful and inspired new year.
All above images were taken with an iPhone during my recent trip to New Zealand and edited with phone apps.