Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hong Kong and Shenzhen - Part 1

I love China.  Some of you might remember the China Blog I kept when I was teaching English there in 2003.  Well, now I’m back; this time in Hong Kong on my way to the Shenzhen province, where most of the consumer electronic goods in the world are manufactured.

I’ve always been fascinated with the old part of China.  Maybe that’s why I try to balance my shots between the shiny new buildings - copied from the West and symbolize economic success and modernism – and the old, dirty parts that are its heritage.  I especially eschew Soviet era relics.  I shoot these things knowing that in about 70 years or so they will be mostly gone. Plus, I see it as providing a kind of balance to what you typically see in the press regarding modern China. (Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

Fortunately in Hong Kong the new and the old are eternally intertwined, and you only have to walk about 20 feet or so to go from a shiny, ultra-air-conditioned building to the old – where wires are strewn everywhere, where every connection (both plumbing and electrical) are makeshift, and the drying laundry is perpetually on display.

2 things happen when you leave your fancy schmancy hotel room during a heat wave in July: 1) condensation from the intense humidity instantly attacks your lens, which can remain thick for up to a half hour, and 2) you are attacked by no shortage of small businessmen offering you fake watches or a custom-made suit.  Some tourists feel they are annoying; I see them as small business people who are doing everything they can to earn a decent living and I can’t help but applaud their tireless proactiveness.  I’m a small businessman too.  I understand that if you don’t hustle for business sometimes you don’t eat.

Of course the first thing I wanted to do was take a picture take a picture like this which would convey in one shot the plethora people bombarding you with offers on the street:

Alas, none of them actually had products in their hands to sell; they all wanted to take you to their shops around the corner.  So the shot wouldn’t have worked.  And for those of you who think I never would have gone to the trouble of getting to know each of the salesmen and orchestrate such a shot, let me kindly show you this shot I took in 2003 where I got half the staff to post in front of a Mongolian Restaurant:

(I actually didn’t buy anything, BTW.  I hate wearing suits and I got my fill of Rolexes back in Beijing in 2003.) 

Throughout this trip I always had in mind a few themes I wanted to capture because I know they are marketable.   The first is “Modern China”, and the challenge as usual was to capture the theme with one shot.  (See image at the top of this post; also below.)  

The second theme is factory workers, which will have to wait until I get to Shenzhen (my next stop).

Technical stuff: The shot below was a handheld shot, A900, 1/8th sec. f/4, ISO 800.  A great composition that is designed for the cover of a travel book to Hong Kong. 

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