A Short Story

It begins with a journey.

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Then there was land.

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Then there were people.

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It doesn’t take much to make a world.

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Neighbours.

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Some rules.

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Some more neighbours.

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And then you have a government.

And then we wait for things to sort themselves out.

In the meantime, my exhibition is still going on – come by if you’re in the area!

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 SC

Film: Kodak BW400CN

On Being Careless

To be interested in street photography is to be careless.

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The above might look better if the boats were cut out of the photograph. The subject would be clearer.

But the eyes don’t always discriminate properly.

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Found scenes are things as they are.

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Boats and paths as they are.

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A child as he is.

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There’s an accommodation of sorts.

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An ordering of nature.

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 SC

Film: Kodak BW400CN

Student Blogs from my MA Course “Writing, Photography, Blogging”

This is becoming more obvious to me now.

A creative detour of sorts (from poetry to street photography as well as my interest in film cameras) which began a few years ago seems to be now taking over my work.

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I’ve been teaching an MA level course at my department with the generic title “Special Topics in Genre Studies”. I’ve shaped it around what I thought would be key genres that are of contemporary interest (Writing, Photography, Blogging). This is the second time I’m running the course.

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An external reviewer from another university who’ve looked at the students’ assignments as well as course materials from the first run of the course commented that this is a course which puts together “creative and critical, theoretical and practical insights” and that it connects “popular culture activities to major strands of 20th century theoretical discourse on creative media”.

I am very much encouraged by this comment and I think the bit about combining the critical with the creative is spot-on in terms of describing what I’m setting out to do.

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Basically, it’s a course for those who are interested in Hong Kong culture.

It’s a project-based course whereby students are encouraged to explore different micro-cultures of Hong Kong and present them (in any way they want) via blogs.

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We would read and discuss the following works together in class:

Clifford Geertz. “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture”.

Leon Anderson. “Analytic Autoethnography”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35 (4): 373-395.

Marshall McLuhan. Selection sections from Understanding Media.

Georg Simmel. “Metropolis and Mental Life”

Walter Benjamin. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.

Roland Barthes. Selected sections from Camera Lucida.

Martin Heidegger. Selected sections from “The Question Concerning Technology”.

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Selected sections from “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”.

Sontag, Susan. Selected sections from On Photography.

John Berger. “Understanding a Photograph”.

Clive Scott. Selected sections from Street Photography: From Atget to Cartier-Bresson.

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There would be group presentations, and students would write individual auto-ethnographic essays on their learning experience and the experience of micro-cultures they’ve chosen to explore.

I keep telling my students in class that I don’t fully know what I’m doing, and that we’re making it up as we go along. To my mind, this is a course that begins with a few fixed parameters, without fully determining the scope of what is to be learnt.

We start from a few well-known ideas and essays in critical theory and extend the insights to the various HK micro-cultures we’re interested in. A group (some of them are teachers) is working on school culture. Another is working on what 5.30pm means to Hong Kong. They’ve more or less decided on taking (street) photographs at exactly 5.30pm. Another group is working on wet markets.

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I remember that in the previous run of the course, there were projects on the neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po, street temples, as well as interviews with the practitioners of “da siu yan” (people you hire to beat paper figurines of your enemies in public with slippers). There was an essay on the travel discourse of Hong Kong people via the analysis of a video by the Hong Kong indie band My Little Airport.

The projects, incorporating elements of street photography, are turning out to be urban ethnographies of sorts.

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Here’re the student blogs:

hkbynight.wordpress.com

fishflops.blogspot.hk

fragmentsofeducation.wordpress.com

lifeiselsewhere2015wordpresscom.wordpress.com

memorystoresite.wordpress.com

revitalisesoldhongkong.wordpress.com

libraryofunicorns.wordpress.com

530inhk.wordpress.com

ohgeno.wordpress.com

I tell my class that perhaps blogging could be a tool for intellectual engagement.

In some ways, I’m already doing it myself.

A series of entries on the Umbrella Movement in this blog have culminated in a conference presentation, which in turn have been reworked into the editorial essay “The Poetics of the Umbrella Movement” in the literary journal Cha.

Thanks for reading!

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 SC

Film: Kodak BW400CN

On Sense and Sensibility

What, really, is there to talk about when it comes to street photography?

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In the end, we’re capturing our selves.

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And the constraints that shape us.

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Street photography is another way of thinking.

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Another way of looking.

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Sometimes the scene seems a bit bare.

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Until one encounters a human figure.

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The art is long and life so short.

In the meantime, my exhibition is still on-going – come by if you’re in the area.

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 SC

Film: Kodak BW400CN

Walking Around

I have so many posts of the street markets at Shamshuipo.

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My only excuse is that things are always changing, and the streets are never the same from hour to hour.

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I’d wonder about the kind of life stories people have.

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What would we say, if we have had a chance to speak about ourselves to one another?

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I’m the guy with the camera who thinks too much.

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While someone else is having his siesta.

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The streets are so busy.

Camera: Olympus XA2

Film: Ilford XP2 400

Singapore’s Little India in Colour

My previous post on Little India was in b/w.

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These are in colour.

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Friends in conversation.

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A street fruit stall.

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A framed place.

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A vegetable stall.

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I can’t resist another shot at the sign, as if to assure myself that everything has its place in Singapore.

Camera: Olympus XA2

Film: Agfa Vista 400

Singapore’s Little India in B/W

These are b/w street photographs of Little India.

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Think of these as a nod towards Aik Beng Chia’s work on Little India.

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Check out his excellent work Tonight the Streets Are Ours here and here.

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There’s definitely a strong sense of community here.

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People are always in touch with one another.

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Scenes of friendship.

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Street scenes.

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Joy of the streets.

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The streets are institutionalized and framed.

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That doesn’t mean we should stop searching and looking.

Camera: Olympus XA2

Film: Ilford XP2 400

 

Singapore Street Photography

These are various snapshots in Singapore, with no particular order or theme in mind.

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Though I must confess a significant number of images have to do with food…

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He’s eating.

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He’s texting.

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He’s working really hard.

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He’s buying.

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I’m buying.

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I’m buying some more.

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These, I suppose, make up part of what Singapore is.

Camera: Olympus XA2

Film: Ilford XP2

Raffles Place Lunchtime

That’s the courtyard between the 2 main exits of Raffles Place MRT station.

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Lunchtime – that funny, in-between time that is part-leisure, part-work, part-consumption.

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People relaxing.

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Waiting.

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Posing.

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Catching up.

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Having a smoke break.

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All caught up and immersed in the ever-present, not too far away from a reminder from history, of how times have changed and will change again.

Thanks for reading!

Camera: Olympus XA2

Film: Ilford XP2