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.
As harsh and as raw as Yunnan was to travel through, I am counting the days till I am able to go back there and be charmed again by its wild intensity. I have been told that the way I processed the photos of this past month has been too contrasty, too sharp, too extreme, and this is true. Yunnan for me was exactly that, rough, sharp, wild, and its lifestyle contrasting greatly with what I and most of us are used to. I feel that knowing different cultures thoroughly can only increase and deepen our humanity. So with that, I say farewell to the Honghe region of Yunnan and its colorful people and I will meet you again tomorrow with the start of a new month of images, somewhere entirely different…
Thank you for your comments, encouragement, advice and views along the way.
Have you ever noticed how we walk sometimes in the cities with small clouds hanging around our heads, that the shine of our smiles has a very hard time breaking through? We move as though we are troubled by so many invisible phantoms that prevent us from responding humanly to others that pass us by. But when we meet simple people in simple places, there is just us, them and their reaction. Most often it is a big generous smile that glows and its warmth is able to reach us and force a mutual reaction from our faces. And it does feel so good to exchange these smiles with the people of the world where no words are necessary.
There is a little girl who lives on a mountain top, her home is made of mud bricks and it is one big room, her brother, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents all live in that big room, also her chickens, pigs, cows, cats, dog and all the birds in their trees. She has a very pretty pearl necklace and a lovely pink dress. Her name she could not tell me, she was too shy to speak. I will call her the girl with the pearl necklace.
There are still places in this world, where hard labor is a way of life. The formidable Hani women build their own homes, plant and sow their own rice fields, slaughter their own animals for food and gather their own firewood for cooking. All the weight is carried on their backs and supported by their incredibly strong necks for years on end. If the essences of strength and patience were looking for a home on this planet, wouldn’t it makes sense that they would seek these people?
After 5 days of being around these beautiful people in the mountains of Yunnan’s Honghe area, my two traveling companions and I realized that we had not seen a single other foreigner around since our arrival, and we knew that we and our ways must appear so strange to the locals. I had brought a small polaroid camera with me to offer small photos as gifts, and to my utter surprise, most of the older people had no idea that the photos were theirs. They would look at the photo after taking it from me, look at, smile and give it back wondering why I was showing them these people printed on the paper. It was so brilliant and such a great privilege to witness a culture still separated from modernism and its grip.