Ancient Tradition and Pretty Lanterns~ Shanghai

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lantern-festival-shanghai-6lantern-festival-shanghai-3lantern-festival-shanghai-23d2524ff-2db2-4a3c-b38f-9be696ad0c23Lanterns adorned with ancient poems, lights in the sky, colorful decorations, bright smiles, ever-growing crowds; this is the lantern festival in Shanghai’s Yu Gardens. Every year I keep going back simply to be with the joy of this special happening, celebrating the start of Chinese spring under a big full moon. How dull would life be without ceremony…

The Unknown Beckons~

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Isn’t every moment a step further into the unknown? We think we know where we are going, we have it all planned out, then life reminds us of the futility of our false certainty. I welcome the unknown, I want to live in the joy of discovery, to be surprised by life, to meet the future with an open mind.

I took these images today at the amazing James Turrell exhibit in Shanghai.

Inside the Slaughterhouse~ Shanghai

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1933, a maze of amazingly original architecture, flying bridges, spiral staircases, dimly lit corridors, an eerie feeling of disorientation, and a must location to challenge any aspiring photographer. I love returning to this building again and again, that primarily served as a cattle slaughterhouse after its construction in 1933 in Hongkou,  later a cold storage facility, and a medicine factory among other uses; it now hosts creative spaces, restaurants and shops as well as a few bewildered photographers. The possibilities here are endless to create, dream and compose.

 

Quietly They Toil~ Yunnan

The tug go venture into new territory~ YunnanTobacco road~ Yunnanthe strong backbone of the working man~ Yunnanthe loads we carry~ Yunnanspinning tales over gernerations~ Yunnanfield of dreams~ YunnanFarmer in the fog~ Yunnan

For some of us here on earth, the day begins and ends with physical work, and that brings a simple satisfaction of a hard-earned existence. Every working face I saw during my travels in Yunnan was always ready to break into an unapologizing smile; they possessed a contentment that can be forgotten to us in our boxed offices and multiple screens facing us every waking moment. They commune with nature, the wind, the elements, the land and that rewards them with a sense of belonging. They remember that they are earth dwellers and that simple truth is their fountain of wisdom.

Qibao, Inside the Time Capsule

unbreakable friendships~ Qibao

unbreakable friendships

Time's indellible stamp~ Qibao

time’s indelible stamp

stolen sketches of a lost theater~ Qibao

stolen sketches of a lost theater

breaking ground~ Qibao

breaking ground

If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you~ Qibao

if I wanted your opinion I’d give it to you

softening the hard reality~ Qibao

softening the hard reality

who said Triad~ Qibao

who said Triad?

a controlled sea of humanity~ Qibao

a controlled sea of humanity

Hidden inside the massively dense Shanghai Metropolis is a quaint, albeit crowded small world of tradition. Bridges over water, narrow old streets, a wide variety of delicious street food and a beautiful old tea house.

In the tea house, mostly old men gather to drink tea and watch story telling theaters on a stage that echoes with ancient times.

Each time I go back there, I find the same people, doing the same things, as though they are caught in a time capsule and every day must be relived as it was the day before.

Nearby are the green lanes, where door after door girls and women offer their services for a price. Tickets to their worlds are sold on the main street of the old village.

Heartbreaking, surreal and intoxicating is Qibao.

The Good People

The way to explore slowly

The way to explore slowly

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.

warmed by the sun and a grandparent

warmed by the sun and a grandparent

the good people

the good people

reverence~ Yunnan

reverence

Golden dedication~ Yunnan

Golden Dedication

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.

she bashfully ran in a swoosh of color~ Yi Minority~ Yunnan

She Bashfully Ran in a Swoosh of Color

 

The Soul of Yunnan~

For the Love of People~ Yunnan

the boy who saw through me

the boy who saw through me

flying dreams

flying dreams

early bonds

early bonds

indelibly connected

indelibly connected

Attempting documentary photography and not feeling compassionate love for people would be pointless as far as I am concerned.

I love feeling the humanity in other people’s eyes, to guess at what they are feeling, to lock eyes with them even for a brief moment, to be part of their world for the time I that I am there and later again and again through their photographs.

With each visit to Yunnan, my connections are deepened and I feel compelled to return. Simplicity is a gem in our complex world of today, a fountain of peace to a busy and crowded mind.

More soon from this amazing region of China…

In Street Photography Expect the Unexpected~ Yunnan

 

the wagon ride

the wagon ride

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.

girl in wagon~ Yunnan

girl in wagon

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.

on a scale of old to new

on a scale of old to new

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.

how they stole the show and my heart

how they stole the show and my heart

Saima and Petra with the children

Saima and Petra with the children

Photo of me taken by Saima with the children at the market.

Photo of me taken by Saima with the children at the market.

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.