Occupy Central: A Monochrome Meditation

All images were taken with one camera, one lens, on the same roll of film and on the same day.

 

This is a visual meditation on Occupy Central.

Once upon a time, Occupy Central was an idea. It was an event that was yet to come.

It then became an event.

It will be an event that is always already present, even if it ends today or at some point in the future.

 

At Admiralty.

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At Mong Kok.

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At Causeway Bay.

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Thanks for reading.

 

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f 1.4 SC

Film: Ilford XP2 400

 

 

 

Winding Down?

There’s definitely a sense that things are winding down at two of the three Occupy sites.

There’re fewer tents now at Mong Kok.

I’m focusing more on the objects this time – how do you photograph tents and people that are not there?

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At Admiralty, the tents are still holding forth, and the art works are still looking robust.

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Causeway Bay is a bit quiet these days, though there’re still people who would pause to read the messages.

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Thanks for reading.

 

Camera: Canon 600D

Legacy Lens: Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Lydith 30mm f 3.5

Revisiting Occupy: Mong Kok, Admiralty and Causeway Bay

The sites are being cleared even as I’m typing this.

So, this is going to be memory soon.

Mong Kok:

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Admiralty:

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Causeway Bay:

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Camera: Contax TVS II

Film: Kodak Ultramax 400

 

 

 

 

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!