Things As They Are

Wallace Stevens: “You have a blue guitar,/ You do not play things as they are.”

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I suppose the whole point of the visual arts is to get us to see things as they otherwise are.

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And perhaps be unlikely.

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Wallace Stevens: “Things as they are/ Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

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This is not a bicycle.

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This is not a ladder.

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These are not sacks waiting to be moved.

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Things as they are not are directions and lines of force.

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Things as they are not are relationships between lines, textures, and light.

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With things as they are not, we learn the background of things.

 

Camera: Spotmatic F

Lens: Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 35mm F 3.5

Film: Fujifilm Superia Venus 800

 

 

 

Street Exhibits at Admiralty

This is getting obsessive, I know. But I can’t help but think it’s important to document these sites.

They aren’t going to be here forever.

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I think these are supposed to resemble corpses, indicating that the protesters would be waiting here till they die.

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An installation of a protester.

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(Very) rough translation: Respect Hong Kong’s right to decide.

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The umbrellas.

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The hope of a generation.

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A closer look.

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Another installation. There were many of these on the road.

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Learning from history and literature – is it possible to argue against the above banner?

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Umbrella revolution – a work in progress.

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Hmm…

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The writing on the wall.

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A minion!

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A balloon with inverted umbrellas.

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Message behind bars.

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There are so many banners.

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The people continue to speak.

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Still waiting.

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Building a community.

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If I’m not wrong, that’s the traditional practice of using a slipper to slap a picture of your enemy.

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That’s a pretty strong statement.

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That’s what it’s about.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Camera: Contax TVS II

Film: Fuji Venus 800

 

 

 

Shenzhen Shopping Monochrome

For the images here, I’ve done a B/W conversion from Fuji Venus 800 film loaded on Olympus XA2.

I’ve done a minimal bit of tweaking for some high contrast.

To my eyes, they look somewhat raw and harassed.

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Here’s another one of Luohu Commercial City, viewed  at a lower level.

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You could see this is a popular place for bargains.

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The above composition looks quirky – though it looks strangely apt.

This is how we see things – artlessly.

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I’m up close, and they’re too busy negotiating prices to notice.

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Why is it that yummy food is always unhealthy food?

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That’s the way we see things sometimes – blurred and hurried.

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You could see I lingered for a bit at this stall…

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Check out those food on the skewers …

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And yes, let’s not forget the man who winked at my wife…

Some images from this post are available here as affordable prints, in case you haven’t checked out my Saatchi Art page yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shenzhen Shopping

Shenzhen is fascinating, if you know how to navigate and where to go.

My wife and I decided to head over the Hong Kong border for a day trip, partly to buy some phone cases for a few friends.

So naturally, I brought along my stealthy Olympus XA2 loaded with Fuji Venus 800.

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This is Luohu Commercial City, a warren of shops you could get lost in. We normally go to the restaurant at the top floor.

Once in a while, there is a bit of mild harassment.

On a previous trip, someone followed us for a bit and kept saying “cheap DVDs, cheap DVDs, just follow me” and she got hauled off by 2 policemen.

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Some images are rather blurry because of the limitations (indoors, ISO 800 capability of the XA2, need for stealth in narrow places).

Yet it does drive home the furtive, unpredictable and artless aspect of street photography.

We took the subway – 2 stops to Laojie, a shopping district, where, if you know where you are going, you would find yet another warren of shops with even lower prices.

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We got our phone covers there for about RMB20 each.

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This guy took out a knife and started stabbing at his plastic phone screen cover.

He was trying to tell me it’s a scratch (and stab) proof cover that will really protect my phone’s screen.

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I was convinced. That’s my phone he’s working on.

It really is a labyrinth.

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Quick, quick, before I’m spotted.

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My wife did tell me to choose my photographic subjects wisely.

“Our kids still need a father,” she said.

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And, yay, food street!

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Street food!

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Yummy pig trotters!

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Yummy Taiwan-style sausages!

Green chilli with rolled bacon!

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Grilled spicy cuttlefish!

He dances as he cooks.

There’s a warning sign next to him saying he sells cuttlefish only and please do not be taken in by his charm …

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He winked at my wife!

How dare he.

For collectors: some images from this post are available here as open edition prints.

Not Shopping at Tsim Sha Tsui

All images here are shot at Tsim Sha Tsui with the Contax TVS II loaded with Fuji Venus 800 film.

The Contax TVS series of film cameras are gorgeous, with titanium bodies, aperture priority and P modes.

There’s a 28-56 focal length zoom which is ideal for street photography.

For me, they are the more nimble younger siblings of the Contax T3.

Which explains why I went out the other day with the intention of not buying that Contaxt TVS II I had seen, complete with the databack.

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This person saw what I was about to do, and smiled.

Check out that SLR camera-thing his buddy behind him was carrying.

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Hong Kong people work really hard.

We keep saying that Hong Kong is a shopping paradise.

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Of course, we need people to service the economy.

There are shoppers just as there are delivery people.

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A salute to the people who keep things going.

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Sometimes they are invisible to the shoppers, often faceless and anonymous.

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We should make it a point to notice people more …

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To see the difference between glamour and real people.

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Otherwise, we’re nothing more than mannequins looking at other mannequins.

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For collectors: open edition prints from this post are not available here.

I suppose that’s my (ironic) gesture of commitment to the push and pull of capitalist logic…

 

Fuji Superia Venus 800

I usually do very little post-editing, leaving the quality of the film to sort itself out.

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But the colours can turn out to be so very different from one exposure to another.

All images here are done with my Contax TVS, with Fuji Superia Venus 800.

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The above looks so lomography-ish.

I suppose lomography is point-and-shoot film photography write large.

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Then you have this, which seems a bit warm.

And then this:

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Greens and blues are rather saturated, with a gritty look to them.

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I waited a bit for the green canvas to be spread out, and was spotted.

So I smiled and waved, trying very hard to look like a silly tourist befuddled by his camera.

Oh look – yummy lychees!

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And here, the colours are muted.

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I was hoping for a silhouette effect.

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And then I switched off my camera, turned it on again, and forgot to de-activate the auto-flash function.

The flash went off less than 2 metres from him. He looked at my camera, and didn’t react…

 

I figured he must be deep in thought, or was he looking at something else…

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For collectors: open edition prints from this post are available here.

 

 

 

Analysis Paralysis

Street photography can be an obsessive endeavour…

One day, I was walking around and I saw this.

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And I did another take just in case.

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And I went, oops, oops, there’s a bit of condensation on the lens.

Hence the slight foggy effect.

And again, after wiping the lens.

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Hmm … the left leg is slightly out of frame.

And again, after zooming out with my feet …

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Better, I think.

Check out the stark clarity of the pavement.

Hmm … that’s a Minolta Af-C camera loaded with Neopan 400CN.

Let’s see what my Contax TVS camera loaded with Venus 800 would look like.

Here we go again, after I’ve rummaged through my bag for a bit.

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And again.

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One last time, I promise.

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The image reminds me of a line I wrote in a poem: “It takes ten years to cultivate a tree, a century for a human being”.

It’s from a Chinese proverb “shi2 nian2 shu4 mu4, bai3 nian2 shu4 ren2”.

The things we do in the name of art …

Anecdote of the Jar

I’m not sure if this is considered street photography, but I suppose so, if street photography is about scenes that are found rather than staged, about scenes that say something about the interactions between human beings and their environment.

For those interested in film photography: all photographs are taken with Contax TVS, loaded with Superia Venus 800. That’s the gear I carry these days. This post is inspired by Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Anecdote of the Jar”:

I placed a jar in Tennessee,

And round it was, upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill.

 

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.

The jar was round upon the ground

And tall and of a port in air.

 

It took dominion everywhere.

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

 

A quick Google search will reveal various possible readings to the poem, so I’ll suppress my inner poetry geek as much as I can.

 

I’ll simply say that at the minimum, the poem is about the relationship between human artifacts and nature.

 

The take-away philosophical point is that a man-made object placed/installed in nature changes nature.

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Is nature a rubbish dump, a depository of things no longer useful?

 

The joker in me tells me it’s a supermarket shopping cart that has lost its way.

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Nature is nature.

 

A journey into what nature is is man-made.

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Is nature a resource we exploit?

 

I am reminded of the following lines from Heidegger’s essay “The Question Concerning Technology’ , about how our instrumentalist attitude to nature (and everything else) reduces everything into a “standing-reserve”, as means for other ends:

 

Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. (Heidegger “Question Concerning Technology”)

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We’ve learnt to frame nature.

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And in our arrogance, we forget it is nature that frames us.

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Perhaps we’re the ones putting obstacles between ourselves and nature, between ourselves and ourselves.

Continue reading “Anecdote of the Jar”