How often do I catch myself walking in the city with my eyes down watching the pavement and the flow of faceless people passing by. The city can do that to us, it can make us reduce humanity to a flow of bodies passing by, forgetting that each one of them has a story, a life and a face.
displaced destinies (a child at a migrant school in Shanghai)
Today two good friends and I went for an adventure in a remote Shanghai neighborhood where mostly migrant workers from the provinces live and where their children go to special schools. These are the workers responsible for lifting Shanghai from the ground up to soaring levels with its new high rises and luxury hotels that mushroom at an impressive speed around the jewel of China. The residences are extremely modest and the children struggle to learn as best they can under their current circumstances. On this day the teacher said that they would be celebrating children’s day (normally on June 2nd in China) and strangely enough they pointed out a few of the girls who they consider ‘beautiful’ and explained why they were dressed in party clothes and not the usual school uniform. The declaration of their beauty was done openly in front of all the other students, a concept I found incredibly alien and difficult to understand. “She is the most beautiful girl in the class” the teacher announced loudly, ” and this is why she will be presented on stage today”.
This is what I felt the eyes of this little boy telling me in an old Shanghai alley. He created a shield for himself just in case, hiding behind it half playfully and half in fear of the strange and the unfamiliar. I was with a photographer friend there and we both could feel when it was the right time to stop pushing the limits of innocent trust. It was one of those precious moments that street photography grants you, rare, human, and unforgettable.
I was walking in an old street in Shanghai with my camera taking in all the sights, smells and noises of the crowded narrow lanes when an unusual sight drew me in. I looked inside a smoky large room packed with rickety tables, chairs, tea pots, and men in hats, so many men in hats. I walked in and after I stopped being looked at as the stranger in the village, I began to be approached by the curious of the gathered men. Each wanted to tell me stories, because this is what we humans do, we carry our his-story with us, in our minds, our hearts, etched on our faces and we long to tell them and to pass them on before we leave, so that parts of us can stay behind and make an indelible mark. I listened and tried my best to comprehend, but the best story this man can tell is written all over his face and I present it to you here in this frozen moment…
On this amazing planet of variety, there are dark ones, light ones, short ones, tall ones, massive ones, fragile ones and there are the very delicate ones that live in Asia. The unique trends of each race make them so beautiful to discover and appreciate. Whatever created humans is most definitely not boring!
How often does it happen to you that you are in museum looking at art and you notice people going first to the little cards or papers that hold a description about the art and reading it before even looking at what it describes? By doing that, don’t we prejudge an artwork and fill ourselves with another person’s impression and facts that end up closing us to the natural way of being with something? Aren’t there two parts of us (at least) that can register new impressions? Don’t we register things consciously with our senses while another unseen part of us takes it in in a whole other manner that we cannot consciously comprehend? Wouldn’t it be better to give ourselves the chance first to detect art before filling our heads with information?
photo~ The beautiful Andrea in a long exposure on the bank of the Arno river in Pisa
With this image and post I come to a close with the month fo May and the journey into the Kingdom of Cambodia, a journey filled with smiles, seriousness, inspiration, happiness and a very sad recent history. I hope I was able to pass along just how wonderful that part of the world is, how much great work is going on there for the benefit of the children and how incredibly impressive the Khmer monuments and temples of days gone are.