Sometimes the world feels so vast, it’s people too many and the weight of it to heavy to bear. At those moments, and if you were a person that enjoys their own company with the endless mazes ripe with possibilities of self discovery, then the obvious result would be a self engineered containment. It can have the color of your own choosing, a palace on a hill or a hut on a beach, butterflies in its gardens or pebbles on its beach, the choices are endless.
So, I travel in my mind to my own palace of containment, letting my mind chart the journey and my spirit project the destinations.
These recent images from my Instagram page have been titled “chasing spirits”, and for the first time I find myself seeing a distinct line running through these street portraits that were taken by me in different Asian countries but solicit the same emotional reaction from me. There is something that draws me in to the internal processes of strangers through the maps of their faces, the history recorded in their eyes and the roadmaps of their lives in every line and wrinkle that cause me to pause and wonder: what drives me to chase these images and irks me to go to more places and stop, look and capture? It’s a strong driving force that never relents and I am hoping that after the chase, the cause may reveal itself. It’s a journey of passion and every moment brings me closer to myself…
One of my favorite things about big cities is movement. People moving, going places, coming from places, going up stairs, crossing roads, cycling, running, walking and playing a part in rotating the great metropolis wheel. It’s the urban magic waiting for us photographers on every corner.
Visiting the city we called home for almost 12 years is nothing short of strange at first. But within a day or two I felt the streets call me back with their charm, unique flair and warmth of the people. So little of the old city is left as the large construction projects drive forward leaving bits and pieces of the beautiful old alleys around the city. As I walk around and find huge empty lots and big buildings on the sites of my favorite alleys, I realize that all my photography over the years in Shanghai has been about recording history and vanishing alleys that are never to come back again…
an image of me meeting a local woman and child, taken by a good friend on an adventure in Yangshuo, China, a few years back.
How gratifying it is to explore the spinning sphere we call home. Each time I plan a new trip, I feel a bubbling of excitement at the unknown that would undoubtedly meet, the amazing people who cross my path and the images my camera would capture. It is as soul nourishing journey when I am far from my routine, away from the usual comforts of home and when I get the chance to push the limits of what I know. It makes me think of how knowledge was collected prior to the industrial revolution and the schooling systems that created machines for the industry; before that time knowledge was sought through experience, apprenticeship and exploration. What an incredibly esoteric experience.
Future unknown~ heartbreaking news coming from Xinjiang about China holding over a million Uighur muslims in re-education centers for the purpose of removing their #faith which they label as a virus. History keeps repeating itself and we humans never seem to learn. Their most recent tactic is breaking up families whose strength and cohesion they perceive as a threat to future China.
As I go through my archives, I relive moments from my past travels and like a magical time travel machine, I find myself there again in the moment, looking into the eyes of other humans, feeling what I felt then and simply connecting.
This is one of the many reasons I love photography, the real connections that are made, human to human, where all the differences melt away.
Day 76 of 365~ Image taken in the remote village of Dayangjie, Yunnan, China
This morning I was driving my daughter to her weekend Chinese class and we had a very interesting conversation. She was complaining about her inability to always find interest in continuing to learn Chinese whilst living in Germany and this took us to musings about the human brain and how we, humans have so much unused potential. It has been said that humans only use 10% of the brain capacity and once we push and struggle to learn new things, we are perhaps activating otherwise dormant wirings in our brain and faculties. She became very interested in the process and walked to the class with a spring in her step.
Day 68 of 365~
image is a composite of a wall in Hong Kong and a closeup portrait of my daughter.
In Hongkou, part of the old city of Shanghai, was a set of grey narrow alleys that were a maze of tiny streets containing 2 or 3 story homes stacked side by side in a most claustrophobic manner. Hundreds of tangled electric wires dangled between walls that were decorated with phone numbers advertising services for those who needed them. Water flowed down the streets and bikes and colorful laundry colored the otherwise shabby surroundings. In those sad alleys I met some very happy people. Their smiles instantly appeared when we met and stories were told that I only understood partly because of my poor grasp of Shanghainese but laughter was the largest part of the conversation. I just loved that place and I kept going back again and again to photograph until one day the residents announced that their neighborhood is condemned to demolition like so many other old Shanghai alleys. The last time I visited there were metal foundations of giant about to rise from the stories of these lovely people. I had to fight back tears seeing the ghosts of what used to be there and is no longer…