One of my favorite things about big cities is movement. People moving, going places, coming from places, going up stairs, crossing roads, cycling, running, walking and playing a part in rotating the great metropolis wheel. It’s the urban magic waiting for us photographers on every corner.
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…
I think the beat way to feel the souls of a place is to meet it at a magical moment, a time when something as common as night surrendering to day never fails to amaze us. Every time that I witness a sunrise, it seems as if I gained a chunk of time, a bonus bit of living that would otherwise have been lost to me.
Vibrant, colorful, artful, tolerant, cosmopolitan, reasonable, creative, culinary, interesting… some words that pop in my mind when I reflect on Berlin. Few days were just a teaser for me and they just tug at me to visit again and again. What a city!
Marrakech, a city that does not trust photographers, a place that lives off tourists and snubs them say the same time, but that’s just on the surface. In the last 4 days I asked every local I had the chance to speak with why is there such an automatic and immediate negative response to being photographed, and strangely, no one could give me a straight answer. So I took an approach that I never had to use before in all my travels, I asked, then I laughed and joked (speaking Arabic is definitely helping) and somehow the ice was breaking here and there. It has definitely been a great exercise in disarming, building trust and finding a human common ground connection that is making it all worthwhile.
More about my day in the Berber villages in the next post.
One of the things I was looking forward to moving to Europe is the proximity of amazing cities. So many photographic opportunities are a few hours drive away and the impressions are varied and endless.
Life in the street is a theater happening all the time, constantly changing and metamorphosing that I feel compelled to be out there capturing as many moments as I can. Every image I capture makes me think that had a slept longer it would never have been captured. I imagine this must be every street photographer’s dilemma.
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…
It has been said that the chains that bind us are mostly self-manufactured by our own self-esteem and pride. Personal development is an uncomfortable journey upward and into the unknown, if only we dare.
Day 54 of 365~
Image taken in the entrance to the old tea house in Kashgar, Xinjiang