Pingyao, an ancient town in the Shanxi province of China, completely walled, preserved and authentic looking, is home to the yearly Pingyao photography festival where thousands of photographer meet. I visited for 3 days as 2 of my photographs were curated and included in a show there and during the last 2 days, it rained endlessly setting a beautiful mood for photography. I walked and walked, got drenched and took some photos that I will treasure for always.
A woman from the Yi ethnic minority with her traditional square hat laughing with all her heart at the market after my friend showed her her image on the camera screen.
To stand tall with your head in the clouds whilst your legs are planted firmly on the ground is to truly be living as a human dreams to live…
Happiness is finding yourself as a child living in the midst of a tribe, because as it has been wisely said: “it takes a village to raise a child.”
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.
While I was living in New York City a few years back, I heard a story from a friend about eyes that stayed with me since. She said that a native American man came to the city once and realized how hard and unnatural the streets are on the human eyes. He explained that people are meant to gaze at far away horizons at least once a day and knowing that, he wondered how people can live in a big city where all impressions bounce back into their eyes at such close distances. In the metropolis our eyes work overtime on our behalf when we cross the street, walk on the pavement, dodge passersby and even at home in front of our fast-moving screens of impressions.
Photo taken: a woman on a pavement in Hanoi~ Vietnam
Dignity, the respect of self, living with total agreement and settlement to one’s self selected principles… These are some of the impressions I took with me from Xinjiang and its people. They are custodians of some qualities that are very rapidly becoming lost to our modern world. To be able to go back to basics, wouldn’t that be such a healing to us all?
The simpler the people the easier it is for them to smile…
Have you noticed how in the so-called civilized and developed countries, you end up praying for the sun to shine to get a half-smile out of people in the street? We have complicated our modern lives so much that we end up dragging ourselves around miserably with the weight of problems that we took on voluntarily. Then you meet people in developing countries whose lives are simple, whose worries, as big as they may be, are straightforward and uncomplicated so they can smile so easily from ear to ear when prompted!
When I met this man in Kashgar and tried to photograph him and talk to him with my conversational chinese and his Uyghur dialect, we just ended up standing there in the middle of midday traffic just grinning at each other like two simpletons 🙂
In me this moment lives as one of life’s precious gifts valued and not to be forgotten.
As I come close to the end of this journey back into Egypt I have to carefully choose the last 3 images I want to share with you. Temples, artifacts, artwork, that can all be seen in books, on websites, it has all been recorded again and again, but the people of Egypt, the human element, this is what I value the most in my photos from that time.
The faces of these boys, dressed in their traditional abayas, as they stood there back in 1996, would never have looked the same again. The magic of street photography is in capturing a fleeting moment that is natural, spontaneous and cannot be replicated.
So yes, I will leave you with people’s images in the last 3 posts perhaps to balance the imposing starkness and coldness of Egypt’s architecture and art.