written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Yesterday, I was walking down an alley near the Lama Temple snapping the usual pictures of eaves and doorways and men on bicycles, mounds of garbage, anything colorful, and I had the thought that perhaps I need more organization. My photographs are random, whatever strikes my fancy, whatever seems genuinely Chinese, a validation of the excitingly odd differences between myself and this place I am in. For the most part, this is permissable, as many times I am just trying to show what these places look like for those that our curious about my experience in China. Like any vacation photo they feel more for others than for myself.

I am always aware of myself here. One cannot be unaware when you constantly stared at and not uncommon to be followed. Or when you so blazonly walk down a street that by appearances alone could exist 100 years ago with headphones and silver camera. So it is my present condition to be aware that my outsider status lends me a perception that is mostly innocent and everything is cast in the hues of this naiveity. It is romance, whether beautiful, or exotic, or textured and real. Certainly, unoriginal. I thought maybe I could quell my impulses toward the random by being more conscious of the place. Charcteristic of the oustider is his/her tendency to take everything in one exagerated gulp. Hence the quentessential shot of the subject in front a landscape, that serves mostly as a backdrop.

I think of a collage painting I made (the only one I ever liked) of tourists at Yosemite Park. Everyone (backs facing us) is lined against a stone wall positioned in front of the most stunning vista of El Capitan and the canyon falls, the view found on every postcard and poster. Everyone takes the same photograph. Everyone at least while standing there sees the same thing, an inspiring collection of geologic forms serenely existing in the seemingly quiet wilderness. However, while stepping outside the photo is very different place, a place full of people chatting and laughing, cars passing by, etc. And though the experience of taking the picture with everyone else is unifying in a way, where we could all share the moment of wow here it is look at that, I suspect that most of the time when we are tourists with that sweeping gaze we are complelled to take certain photos over others because we seek what we have seen before. Somewhere buried in that statement I think is the defition of beauty. Recognizing the familiar or the obviously unfamiliar, practicing seeing what we've been taught to see.

So, if I could come up with a very specific subject for the day and practice looking for that subject, even perhaps if it is painful to look for, then I could, maybe shake the habit of looking for the "shot." Then perhaps I could experience a place from a slightly altered perspective than that from a tourist who takes in everything all at once. Afterall, if I am to take pictures of my life and if I should write about my experience than I should accept that I will live in mediated way. And if it should be mediated, be it by camera or writing, then it should be refined. I am not trying to be more artistic, I just want to find a more engaging way to be a tourist with a camera

After having those thoughts I found a photographer who is doing something I really like. His name is Michael Wolf here is the link. It is fashionable to take photo projects of singular subjects. There is something pleasing about the collection of similarity in the landscape. When we put something in a collection its an mostly unnatural state. The easiest aesthetic to produce is a collection, maybe quickest path to art.

Here are some astounding photos of high-density living in Hong Kong taken by Micheal Wolf. http://photomichaelwolf.com/hongkongarchitecture/ his other photos are cleverly uniform as well.

While I am at it I will mention a really nice blog called "Random Stuff that Matters," http://www.houshuang.org/blog/which is actually more smart than the title might lead you to believe. I hope to fashion my own site with same smartness.

P.S. I've wanted to say this...I don't have a lot of time to edit my writing, plus I cannot see this webpage as my site is blocked by the Chinese firewall. So, don't hold by misspelling, missing words and grammer against me. One day I will edit.)

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson