Street Talk

Further adventures of the Canon 40mm F2.8 STM pancake…

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The colour rendering is nice …

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It looks like my 600D has just been promoted from a lame rookie slr to a street camera.

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Happy happy joy joy.

I could go lomography-ish (like in the previous 2 images).

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Or be understated.

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The colours could be muted somewhat.

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Or they could be saturated.

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It could be wispy in the subway…

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Or real and gritty…

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It could be dreamy…

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We could fall into a trance …

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It could be leafy lemony ice cream green …

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Or we could come back to reality (though somewhat muted).

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Or it could be flamboyant…

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We’re all waiting on the street…

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Some day the street would make sense.

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On other days, the street is sneaky.

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It’s always work in progress.

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Everything is under construction.

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A blotch of colour here…

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A funereal shroud there…

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What am I doing?

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The street is asking.

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What’s driving you?

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The street does not answer.

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The answer is in your face.

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The answer just went on by.

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The answer is always somewhere else…

Let my portfolio talk some more…

 

A little bit of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

So … I’m back from Shanghai, having tasted the power of a 50mm lens (80mm with a 1.6 crop factor).

What would that 40mm pancake lens I’ve been reading about do? Hmm…

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That 600D has been hiding away in my closet for a long time, and now I’m beginning to think that with a small-sized lens, it might be a good street camera.

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A 40mm would be a bit extravagant if you already have a 50mm lens.

Just zoom with your feet, I’d say.

But given the crop factor, it would mean 64 mm, a justifiable difference from 80mm.

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So, yes, I headed off to Tsim Sha Tsui with the intention of not buying that Canon 40mm F2.8 pancake lens.

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According to the Canon HK site, it goes for HK$1480.

I inquired about the price at Suning and the staff whispered HK$1380 conspiratorially.

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I crossed the road and went into a small shop called Echo Audio and it’s HK$1100.

Yes! I made some money! A yummy pancake!

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Roland Lim has a lot to say about buying cameras in Hong Kong.

Beware of those shops with “Tax Free” signs. Consumer goods are tax free everywhere in Hong Kong.

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I’ve always been mindful of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

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Every time something fascinating appears, I remind myself it’ll be old news a year later.

First there’s Sony RX100, followed by RX100 MII, and now it’s RX100 MIII.

Ditto Fuji X100 and X100S. You can’t keep up.

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I’m mindful of planned obsolescence when it comes to digital cameras – that’s partly why I’m into film cameras.

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A Leica M6 would still be majestic 10 years later and hold its value at least on EBay.

You can’t quite say the same with digital cameras.

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So anyway, a 64mm would fit between my Leica 50mm Summicron and that 80mm (50mm Canon nifty fifty).

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I could be indoors and still be unnoticed despite the loud flipping of the slr mirror, given the distance.

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This person spotted me but carried on as before.

The pancake is not as intimidating, compared to if I had my 18-135mm lens.

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The fact is, no one noticed me.

The 600D with the pancake looks really small. (Though it is a bit loud).

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He didn’t even look up.

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Maybe I look like a tourist with a camera, in a tourist area.

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He spotted me, but went on walking past me.

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I’m in the MTR (subway) and no one stopped me.

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I am invisible…

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My camera looks like a toy.

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Do I exist?

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If I take a picture and no one sees me … do I exist?

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People are too immersed in themselves…

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Too immersed in their phones…

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Finally – someone noticed!

Thanks for reading!

And if you like this post, you’ll like my portfolio.

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai Monochrome: Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus

Why It Does Not Have to be in Focus: Modern Photography Explained is the title of a book by Jackie Higgins.

To me, it’s a study on artlessness in modern art photography.

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Why photographs do not have to be in focus is akin to why it is that modern poetry does not rhyme.

Ditto why it is that modern musical compositions play with dissonance.

The big word “modernism” comes into play here, with its suspicion of “correctness” as espoused by traditional aesthetics.

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I could go on and on (an occupational hazard for a university professor) but I’ll restrain myself and say simply that we’ve learnt not to trust a person who is too poised, too eloquent, too ready with his or her words.

We’ve learnt not to trust that person who is too artful.

That perhaps there’s something reassuring about imperfections, acknowledging that sometimes, not getting it right is also part of the human condition.

So we look to artlessness and we stop policing ourselves about right vs wrong in aesthetics.

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After all, we often don’t have time to stop and look.

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Everything is done in haste.

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To depict the modern condition, art has to be the modern condition.

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The artist has to learn not to take himself/herself (or art) too seriously.

Art can’t be served on a plate.

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Street photography is about stopping time and making the ephemeral make sense.

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It’s about that grimace we’d rather not see in ourselves, that we’d rather suppress and not let others see.

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Though if the day is good, we allow ourselves a little grin – that’s humanity too.

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We could be lighthearted on a lighthearted day.

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Or stand by and watch life pass us by, and smile.

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It doesn’t have to be in focus, and it doesn’t have to be upright as well…

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We look again.

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We don’t always get it right.

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Life goes on in a blur.

If you like this post, you’ll like my portfolio.

Have a good day!

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai: How to Appreciate High Contrast Monochrome

Yes, I’ve recently acquired a taste for high contrast monochrome.

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It is stark, clear, and in some ways, minimalist.

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Stripped of colours, our attention is drawn directly to the subjects.

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You could overexpose a bit to make a social statement about modernity – the face of the security guard is partially eclipsed, in contrast to the blown-out advertisement.

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There’s the dichotomy between an individual and a building, and the image draws attention to rectangular grids of the building and pavement, in contrast to the white polka dots echoed in the two round shapes on the building.

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The rectangular grids here are enhanced by the bus and the back of the shirt.

More grids, blocks and lines in the next few shots:

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The face is blurred out, again emphasizing the blocks, grids and lines.

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I’m about to reveal a useful street photography technique.

All these shots are done from a mobile elevated position.

I’ve set this up so I could do street photography on the move.

I spent $40 RMB setting this up, though the equipment involved, depending on the model, could easily cost more than $200 000 RMB.

I’m a very talent street photographer, you see.

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Can you guess what it is?

It’s really a fantastic piece of equipment for the street photographer, which has to be manned by another person.

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It’s called an open-air double-decker tour bus.

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$40 RMB is the price of an all day ticket on a route with 3-4 bus lines.

 

My ten-year-old son wants to have a go. The next eight images are by him.

I gave him 2 very important street photography tips:

1) Try not to place the subject at the center.

2) Don’t drop the camera or else.

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I’m responsible for the high contrast monochrome, of course.

But what can I say – he has good creative genes. 🙂

Okay, my turn.

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The above is the street photographer assistant I hired, taking a break from handling that fantastic piece of equipment for me.

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The youth of Shanghai, walking with a swagger.

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I like the facial expressions.

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Cool dudes.

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A blurry shot, something I learnt from Daido Moriyama…

Thanks for reading, and buy my prints!

 

 

Shanghai On the Move

The overall theme for this post is Shanghai’s speed and mobility.

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I realize I have a preference for a “flawed” aesthetic.

Even with a digital camera (Canon 600D), I’m still going for the same vision as with my film compacts.

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In fact, in some ways, I’m treating my Canon 600D like a film compact…

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If you view the image at full size, you could see the grain almost breaking up the picture.

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There’s a symmetry to this composition that I like.

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It’s not focused correctly, just as we see things in glimpses.

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There’s still a lot of construction going on in Shanghai.

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This is visual evidence that the metropolis (population 23 million) is still growing!

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It’s a city on the move.

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With people on the move.

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The three big Chinese characters are translated literally as “China dream”.

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A city is the dream of its people made manifest.

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The Chinese characters on the left can roughly be translated as “caring for the youth of the future” … I think.

The ones on the top right means “building the nation’s most eminent city”.

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Where would Shanghai (or China) be, economically and politically,  in the next 5-10 years?

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This is one of the entrances to the Xujiahui campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I gave a talk entitled … lo and behold, “The Practice of Poetry and Street Photography” at a conference called Modern and Postmodern Arts: China and the World.

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People pose here, at the campus gate, for photographs.

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One of my favourite Chinese idioms – “a hundred years to cultivate a human being”.

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The full idiom is something like “it takes ten years to cultivate a tree, a hundred to cultivate a human being”.

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That’s a library, if i remember correctly.

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Waiting.

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Still waiting.

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Now crossing – a nation of people on the move.

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Places to go, people to see, things to do.

The next 8 photographs were taken by my son, though of course, I’m the one responsible for the high contrast monochrome.

The first six were taken when we were in one of the spheres of the Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

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The next two pictures (by my son) were taken at Urban Planning Exhibition Center.

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I think he’s developing a good sense of composition here.

Thanks for dropping by, and buy my open edition prints at my Saatchi Art page!

 

Shanghai Digital Monochrome: Power Station of Art

We went to the Power Station of Art, and I happily brought my 600D with my nifty-fifty lens along do a a bit of indoors street photography.

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He’s either an artist or a priest…

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A photograph of a person taking a photograph… that’s the master trope of this post.

I am looking at people who are looking at art.

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Perhaps a case can be made that I am also making art of my own, out of art itself.

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This is art quoting art.

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Fabric mirroring fabric…

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Museum goers are also performing a kind of art…

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Someone doesn’t like Dickens… or perhaps this is a comment on China…

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Don’t ask me what it means…

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See for yourself.

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And have a dialogue.

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Hmm…

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Hmm…

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Hmm…

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The gift shop is tastefully done.

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The helicopter view of the gift shop.

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The real is a shadow … the pose is clear.

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Participatory art… we like to see ourselves in art.

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Is art real?

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Always read what it says…

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An owl of Minerva…

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So many texts and subtexts…

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The elephant in the room…

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Even the pipes look arty!

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Is this art?

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Can this be art?

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Better consult the catalogues…

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Is it in the book?

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We need to do some close reading.

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There’s a decorum here, for the sake of the decor…

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We need to find out more…

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Look some more…

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Pay close attention.

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Look up…

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Look down at the screen.

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The answer is in the smartphone.

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t forget to check out my Saatchi Art page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai Digital

The images in my previous posts on Shanghai were made with film cameras.

I’ll go digital here, with a non-descript but able-bodied Canon 600D paired with that nifty-fifty (50mm, f 1.8 II) lens, which gives me an 80mm focal length with the 1.6x crop factor.

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80mm is a long reach for street photography, but it’s a good complement given the 35mm focal lengths of my Olympus XA2 and Minolta AFC, and the Summicron 50mm of my Leica M6.

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And 80mm means I’m far away enough for the shutter sound to be inaudible.

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The above were taken at a shopping mall in Shanghai known as Raffles City.

Fellow Singaporeans would recognize that name, because there’s a Raffles City in Singapore too.

The one in Shanghai is owned/developed by CapitaLand, the real estate company based in Singapore. I almost feel at home here, surrounded by many Singapore retail shops/brands.

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Let’s not forget there’s a Gini coefficient at work here too…

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A fellow tourist on an open-air double decker bus.

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Intriguing cables against historical architecture.

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Some more cables against building windows.

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People waiting for a bus.

The next seven images were taken by my ten-year-old son.

He wanted a go at street photography and I asked him to focus only on 2 things as an assignment of sorts. One, “try to fill the frame” and two, “make sure they’re doing something”.

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As you can see, my son is very talented – it’s in the genes… 😉

He’ll inherit all my cameras one day… (he’s been asking about that Leica M6).

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Lots of potential here on a rainy day.

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This is street photography from a cab.

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Nice rainy red flare.

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Watch out!

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We survived and went to a museum.

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A very distinguished-looking man.

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I like the colors here.

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In front of a gigantic goldfish tank.

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t forget to check out my Saatchi Art page!