Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tricycles, Food and Street Scenes

I have decided in the short time I have been here in Shanghai that I will start a few personal projects for myself. I've read that having personal projects can be good for the photographers soul as it keeps your eyes open and helps bring your senses alive (or in my case bring them back to life!).

The personal projects I have decided to take up are:

These seem to be the main form of transportation for everything from live animals to rubbish to people and, from what I've seen so far, are not subject to any weight, height or width restrictions.

Now I know that many of you are thinking that this has all done before, but being unique is not always the point of personal projects. I chose this because having such old (and somewhat dangerous) modes of transport contrasts so sharply with such a modern and clean city as Shanghai. It provides an excellent juxtaposition, reminding me that Shanghai was built by the sweat and tears of such amazing people.

When your rated an XXL or above, as I am, food is always somewhere in the list of New Year's resolutions. Living in China makes including food into a personal project an obvious, almost a compulsory, choice. Food here is a way of life, and there are are very few places I have visited where almost everything, and any part, is used for cooking.

For the most part the dishes here in China are quite simply amazing, and depending on the recipient, the amazing could be either positive or negative. From Pig's ears to chicken heads to terrapin soup to starfish to duck's tongue to cow's intestines, everything is widely available and cooked in a variety of ways.

I have a strange feeling that this may be one of my most photographed personal projects :-)

Street Scenes
Since moving here three months ago I have walked around town more than in the whole 6 years I was in the Philippines. This is mostly due to the colder weather and the infrastructure which supports walking around on the street without risking your life (except for crossing the road here, which is worth a whole story by itself!).

There is so much going on in the streets and on nearly every road ventured you will bump into something or something that gets you reaching for your camera. The reason for this project are similar to the tricycle project, i.e. people and contrasts.

People also seem to like being photographed and are often willing to pose in a position while you press the button. Sometimes you are asked to send them the photograph and I've been happy to do so, whenever practical.

And of course Family - this is more a personal addiction rather than a project. I love taking photos of my family and so far they have not threatened to throw the cameras out of the window – although I think that's it may have been close on a few occasions!

and finally, if I can fit it in, I'd like to do some Strobist photography at the graffiti walls in Moganshan Road. There is something very addictive about Graffiti and Strobist Photography, putting them together seems to be a lethal combination for overkill or excellent images – only time will tell which path I take.

If you know of anywhere in Shanghai (or other places in China) that you think are great places to capture images please let me know, either in the comments below or my emailing me.

For now, stay well, keep shooting and keep dancing as if no one is watching.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shanghai Day Out - Moganshan Road

We were looking to spend a relaxing day out together in Shanghai as a family and I had read and heard a lot about Moganshan Road (map) as somewhere to go and see art and especially graffiti . I hadn't expected much as we'd previously walked around the French Concession area in Shanghai looking for art galleries and only found one or two.

As this was a new part of town, we went there by car and got dropped off at one end of the road then slowly walked up the street. My initial impression was not so good, I had flash backs of traipsing around trying to find one or two galleries. The first one or two we saw were disappointing and we thought that lunch would come very early for us.

After the initial 2 galleries we suddenly came across a large open complex of what seemed to have previously been dock yards or old warehouses along the river which were full of different galleries. The address is 50 Moganshan Road, and I thoroughly recommend it as a place to go and visit. I don't know how many there were, but I estimated more than 50 different galleries of different sizes were located in that one complex.

The first gallery on the corner of the complex was called Yu Nancheng (Fish) Studio, and they have some amazing oil paintings of various scenes. The photos do not do the painting justice for their size (around 1.5 – 2 m) or their texture.

The texture of the main characters is layered oil paints to create an amazing 3D effect and they are truly beautiful to look at.

The simplicity of the red and black, with background figures done in black on black, create a very refined and strong image. 

Unfortunately they are not cheap, around USD 7,500 to USD 15,000, so I could only afford to look, but are definitely worth the money if you can afford.

We looked in many of the galleries, but were not allowed to take many photos. The galleries go from small art shops to medium size art galleries which sell paintings to exhibition halls which have a range of various styles from weird to interesting.

A lot of the galleries seem to have similar style of paintings. One style that is particularly hip at the moment is the modern pop-art of Chinese faces with very large mouths smiling.

(image from http://archive.liveauctioneers.com)

Inside the complex there are a few cafes to sit and relax, all of which are arty and make you feel like sitting round and contemplate the meaning of life :-) We found a good cafe in the middle of the complex which had a wonderful rustic interior with great food and coffee, which made you feel like curling up by the fire place and reading a good book. I can't remember the name of the cafe, but look for the toilets towards the back of the complex in the middle and you'll find it.

After looking about for a while we headed out of the complex and saw the graffiti walls further down the road. I was not disappointed. There is about 200-300m of a wall completely covered in graffiti of all sorts.

We were lucky to be able to see someone, tag name “dezione”, actually creating a painting Many people stopped to watch him in action and at various times I thought a road accident was going to happen as cars also just stopped in the middle of the road to watch.

In the end I asked my family to pose at different places and vowed to myself to come back, with more equipment and try some really cool shots.

If you love art, you will love Moganshan Road.