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.
From a recent journey to the old villages around Huangshan (yellow mountains) of China’s Anhui province, I was utterly inspired with the landscape, the feeling of calm that blankets the area and the mystical sense of being so far away from it all.
It made me think a lot about the nature of water, and reflections that are abundant in this place; the magic of seeing the world repeated, maybe for us to think twice.
earlier this afternoon, just when the sun was ready to sail back home
There is a moment, a split second, when you are with your camera in the streets, and a moment you were hoping for surrenders itself to you. I am referring to that brief time before your subject has a time to react to your lens. I love that magical click that finds the person inside of their essence; a line of connection between you, the lens and the person.
What is it that makes us humans want to idolize someone and hold them high, look up to them, attribute super powers to them and be completely subjective about the whole affair? We do it with sports teams, with movie stars, with religious leaders and with politicians. Or do we sometimes do it from a sense of obligation or pier pressure?
It is a great wonder how we humans who live on this planet can look so different. We belong to different races, these races or tribes have different skin color, body shapes, average heights, eye color, face shape, voice, hair, strength… and the list goes on. But something that unites us all is what comes in and out of the eyes no matter what color or shape they are. It has been said that all creatures that have eyes possess a soul. Maybe that which lives inside each of us that we cannot see is using our eyes to communicate and to see. When someone wants you to be honest with them, they ask you to look them straight in the eyes, because the eyes, or what looks through the eyes, is not able to lie. The truth of us, of who we are and of what lives inside us has the eyes for its gateway. If electrical impressions can come in to the eyes, then it would suggest that they can come out in the same way. So much mystery lives in our very own human design…
photo taken: a little girl learning to draw faces at CCPP in Sihanoukville.
With history lives mystery, the unknown, the unexplained, the unanswered questions, the missing pieces of the puzzle, and it is fascinating to an inquisitive mind and to a fertile imagination. We are drawn magnetically to ancient sites, even as small children, we dream about the builders of the pyramids and picture them walking sideways as they do on the walls of hieroglyphs in Giza, we daydream about what it would be like to live as a Japanese Samurai, or to have been a soldier in the times of ancient Rome…
It was compelling for me to stand in front of the remaining facade of the ruins of St Paul’s cathedral in Macau, built in the 16th century by exiled Japanese Christians, commissioned by the Jesuits and destroyed almost completely by a fire during the typhoon of 1835. I wondered who walked through these great doors, what happened inside the imposing cathedral walls and did they ever foresee the rising of the modern casinos and buildings that are swallowing Macau today?
As a photographer, the eyes are as important a tool as the camera. To find a subject, a moment worth freezing and capturing, we first have to ‘see’ it. It is a special kind of seeing. The eye becomes the lens zooming in, zooming out, composing, measuring, evaluating and discussing options with the brain, the imagination, other senses… a magical theater of composition. And then at some moment it all feels right, and the hand goes to click the shutter. But none of that could happen without the initial orchestration of the eyes. I have so much value for my eyes when I follow my passion in photography, which makes me constantly aware of the incredibly complex and sophisticated machine we humans are lucky to live in here on Earth.
I photographed this sweet man about 2 months ago on a street in Pudong while he was taking his break from work with his friend and it was s delightful encounter, full of smiles and shy giggles from the two of them. Since the street was in my Shanghai neighborhood, I asked them if they would like prints of their images and they loved the idea. Since that day I have been returning to this street every few days looking for them to no avail. And then, finally, today I saw one of the men resting on the ground in the heat of the day. It was like meeting an old friend! He jumped up, giggling, joyous, and when he actually saw the prints I gave him he was talking so fast to himself that I could not understand a word of his provincial Chinese, but I did not need to… So much passed between us without words and the lovely worker made one photographer very happy and a little magic was sprinkled on an otherwise normal day!
Familiarity is our biggest enemy in life isn’t it? It creates the illusion that we already know something, that we understand it. But life is not really like that. There are so many ways to look at something, anything. There are so many levels to things, to truths, to people, to thoughts, that we will never really stop searching if we put aside our familiarity.
This building in Shanghai is fascinating: It was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, in such a way that from each place you stand it looks completely different, and I mean completely! Every time I see it I marvel at these simple truths. Nothing is as it seems…