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…
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…
The most difficult thing about change is to not be allowed to do so. In a big city change is a way of life and conformity can be easily pushed aside to make room for a journey of personal development. But then there are some rare villages and tribes where personal development is championed above all else. I have seen one or two.
In a life where we rush from the days of our childhood to gather information and knowledge that we believe will help us grow, many of us end up facing an awakening later along the way. The truth that we seek so desperately appears to be much simpler than we had projected it to be. Maybe instead of all the baggage we carry, the books we read, the college degrees we hang on our walls, a shrinking back to basics is what is needed. Any time I had a revelation of any kind, it seemed to appear from the simplest moments in life, a raindrop, a rainbow, a flower, a walk in the forest, the smile of a child, a look in the mirror, a moment with a friend, a twinkle in an eye…
Every so often I am compelled to change gears and alter the direction of my stride and the search never ends…
River salmon has a very strange life pattern. It hatches upstream, swims downstream towards the ocean, matures downstream and then swims back upstream against all odds and strong currents, struggling and even jumping up waterfalls to make it back to the place where its life originated and eventually die there. I wonder if that’s the amount of superhuman effort needed for us to live our lives as they were meant to be lived, against all what tries to drag us downstream towards the oceans of mediocracy. To live a life aligned to human purpose would mean going against so much in order to escape being just another one amongst the lost.
Shanghai grows in front of our eyes at a staggering speed. When we moved here over 6 years ago, the SWFC (also known as the bottle opener), currently the tallest building in Shanghai was barely visible at its early stages of construction. Now, the new shanghai tower has risen to almost the height of the jin mao tower and the ifc twin towers are standing and buzzing with life. The circular walking bridge is also a new addition and it keeps on going and transforming on a daily basis.
odc~ starts with c
A view of Shanghai’s financial district from the oriental pearl tower.
If I were to put one common word when describing children from any country, I would say ‘resilience’…
Children are developing beings, changing at a rapid speed, growing, absorbing, evolving and filled with energy that drives them through their process of becoming young adults. What I saw in a lot of the children in Congo was hope, strength, power, joy and possibility despite of and against all odds.
At the beginning of their life journey, their future is unpredictable, unknown and allowing for just anything to happen. It makes me wonder what will become of the these young bright faces that I met, where they are now and where they would be years from now.
photo taken: during a french lesson at the Cajed center for the care of ‘les enfants de la rue’ (the street children) in Kinshasa.
Little Lea has been working so hard on her Taekwondo, practicing with great focus and determination and today her first reward was finally attained, a new yellow/white belt from her teacher rewarding her accomplishments. She went through the ceremony shyly but ever so proudly.
A great marker in the growth of a young life, where discipline, hard work and the love of what you do eventually earns you a reward.