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Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: photography
Friday, 29 June 2012 00:00

Beyond the digital trash bin

There are as many ways to take a photograph as to look at the world. Some pictures show an empathy with the subject, some others create a sense of distance or even repulsion. Some are bathed with light and tenderness, and some with anger or despair. Some concentrate on everyday life, with a sense of patience, a kind of meditative undertone, while others try to capture the spark of the moment, the transformative event that changes the mood of a crowd or the look on a face. Some impact a meaning on the world and on human life, and others speak of meaningless wanderings Some pictures seem to be the product of a leisurely walk, and some of a feverish quest into both the city’s and one’s own soul…

I am teaching a course of religious anthropology, and have found that initiating students to “visual anthropology” was one of the best possible ways to make them enter the subject matter. I show them documentaries and photographs, and they slowly become conscious of the fact that the best and most informative documents are not the ones that try to objectively record data but rather those that testify to the engagement of the director of photographer with the people he meets with. A sense of risk, of bewilderment, the account of how one’s own perspective has changed, the courage to position oneself within the environment one explores are the qualities we look for: at its best, visual anthropology gives us an unparalleled account of the way people live and express their beliefs, engage into rituals, how they understand and shape the world they dwell in.

Photographs are rich with information, but not only with information. They are relational objects: they express how we engage or did not engage into a relation with the object of our interest, how our exchanges created the opportunity through which a rich and striking photograph could be taken, how we become part of the scene we document (landscape, ritual or street scene), how frontiers have been blurred till the point that we do not know whether we shot the picture or were shot into the heart by what we saw and experienced.

It is a pity that the act of photographing has been trivialized to the extreme. Pictures are taken all the time with cell phones and other devices – pictures of ourselves mostly -, we look at themselves a few seconds before forgetting them forever, and putting them into a digital trash bin. When it comes to me, I like to sense the weight of a real camera resting on my shoulder, and to make this weigh the symbol of what it costs to take real photograph, photographs in which I have engaged my powers to relate, to feel and to create. At the end of the day, there always will be the pictures meant to go into the trash bin from the moment they were taken and the ones that will speak for a very long time of the tears and the laughs that together compose what can really be called “the salt of life.”

 

 


Monday, 30 April 2012 11:04

A World Falling Apart

The Huaguang community (華光社區) is one of the last mainlander villages left in central Taipei. This old community retains the mood and traditions of old times. Its inhabitants, civil servants from the Ministry of Justice, mainlander families and others Taiwanese, have been living here for more than 50 years. By the end of 2012, this community will be demolished to give way to a financial centre called "Taipei Wall Street". Inhabitants are calling for justice and decent relocation solutions. Through this documentary, a collection of nocturnal colors photography, the presence of the inhabitants is suggested but not shown outright, their anger and frustration is just acknowledged but not emphasized. The wall and windows, the alleys and the vegetation, where you can feel the sweat of their existence, are all photographed by night to underlie the unreal mood that will follow the demolition. No digital retouchings have been made to the photos; all shot with a Kodak Ektar Chrome 100.

 


Wednesday, 28 December 2011 18:07

Summer in Yangjuan Pass


I have travelled many times to Liangshan Prefecture, home of Sichuan’s Yi minority. Reporting on festivals in Zhaojue, Puge or Meigu counties, I have taken countless photographs and made many Yi friends, whom I like to visit each time I am back in Liangshan.

It was only during the summer of 2006, however, that I went to Yanyuan County, in the western corner of the prefecture. I was accompanying a French scholar, Benoit Vermander, to Yangjuan village. Yangjuan has more or less become a household name in Liangshan and Chengdu, as a school has been built there thanks to the efforts of Benoit, Professor Stevan Harrell (University of Washington in Seattle) and many friends from Chengdu and other parts of China. Not only does Yangjuan enjoy the benefits of a good primary school, it has also embarked on a variety of experiments: summer educational courses, hydraulic works, sheep rearing and following the lives of young migrant workers… Most of these experiments are small-scale, which is actually an advantage because it allows for trial and error, involvement of the villagers, and potential duplication in other places… Even if the experience remains limited in scope, Yangjuan is a kind of social laboratory.

In fact, “Yangjuan” is not the official name of the place. This community is officially part of Baiwu Township, in the north-central part of Yanyuan County. The area is beautiful, with streams and cliffs, fields of buckwheat, corn and sunflowers. There are mountains on all sides, rich with forests of Yunnan Pine and hundreds of species of plants. Sheep, goats, horses, cattle and pigs graze in the pastures. However, I know that in wintertime, things are different. Everything is barren, water is sorely lacking, people are cold, malnourished and often sick without reliable medical care. Development is needed, but local people must be the actors of the development process.

What made summer of 2006 so special was also that Benoit was not alone this year. He came with his younger sister, his brother in law and their four children (7 to 13 years old); all of them arriving directly from France. Going to Yangjuan when this is your first trip to China is most certainly not a banal experience!

These pictures document this extraordinary summer at a remote village in Liangshan, where friends come together every summer, to forge a tiny part of a better future…

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011 17:45

Shiqu, the birthplace of King Gesar

 

The district of Shiqu (Serxu in Tibetan) is located on the border of the Ganze Tibetan Prefecture (Sichuan) where it belongs, the region of Tibet proper and Qinghai province. More than a thousand kilometers away from Chengdu, at an average altitude of 4.526 meters, and twenty-five thousand square kilometers large, the district harbors a population of seventy thousand people, almost all farmers, surviving a severe climate (an average of 1.6 degrees below zero, and record cold dropping to 46 degrees below zero). The miracle is that this area is the one where began to be composed the epic of King Gesar, considered the longest poem in the world. The district also claims to be the birthplace of this legendary Tibetan king. It also keeps the longest wall of Mani stones, and a "city" dedicated to the souls of dead heroes.

 

The photographs gathered here gives testimony to a world with no equivalent. The Barge wall, 53 kilometers away from the district township, is located between a mountain and the sacred waters from which emerges the Yalong River. Started in 1640, repeatedly repaired and expanded since then, the wall now extends over a length of 1.7 kilometer, and its height ranges between two and three meters. The majority of stones that adorn the building are Mani stones (or simply "manis"), which are so called because they are carved with the famous mantra “om ma ni padme hum” ("the mantra of the six syllables" or “drug yi ge pa” in Tibetan). But the Barge wall also comprises more than three thousand stones decorated with representations of Buddhist deities, and about seven thousand stones inlaid with various sutras.

As to the "funeral city" of Songge, it is composed of a wall nine feet high surrounding an accumulation of stupas, through which the visitor circulates as in a maze after having entered through a back door. Its wall (which extends 73 meters from west to east and 47 meters from north to south) is also composed of Mani stones, sutras carved in stone and a sacred iconography, among which the few scholars who have been able to come there are able to identify representations of King Gesar and thirty-General of the State of Ling of which he was the overlord. At the very center of this construction stands a well, the depth of which has not been probed. The construction of this "city" began around the eleventh or twelfth century. It is probably a kind of memorial for the heroes fallen during the wars fought by King Gesar. The epic sings the repentance finally shown by the uncle of King Gesar, his hardened opponent, after he had killed several heroes. The funeral city would then have been built as a sign of atonement.

Nomadic tribes still live in the area. They bring along with them sacred vessels and erect a “portable temple” in a tent wherever they have decided to camp. The whole region is marked by such extremes of hardship, poetry and faith…

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011 17:25

Napa Village

The district of “Shangri La” (formerly called Zhongdian, before a name more prone to attract tourism was adopted in 2001…) is located on the north of Yunnan province, on the southern side of the Tibetan Plateau. The district is located on the frontiers of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet, with an altitude of about 3380 meters above sea level.

Besides a renowned temple and the ruins of another one, the township proper has not much to offer the passer-by. But its surroundings are full of stunning human and natural wonders. One of them might well be Napa village, about 12 km from the township. It is in the middle of a natural reserve, set up by the government in 1980. There are 41 families, farmers and hunters, totaling a little less than 300 inhabitants, whose houses are grouped together. A gate signals the entry to the village. The lake below it is called “Napa Sea” and is renowned for the back-neck cranes that spend the winter there. It is not even a lake actually, but rather a depression, totally filled with water during the rainy season.

The primary school in Napa village stops at the third grade. Volunteers, coming mainly from Shanghai, have been offering summer courses for a few years already. Whenever possible, teachers supported by outside funding try to offer courses during the year, so that children may get a more advanced education. The same volunteers’ team also offers physical check-ups and other services aimed at local, sustainable development.

Ascending the mountains that surround the village, visitors can discover the enchantment of Tibetan forests and pasture. Now more open to the outside world and mastering the Mandarin language, young villagers act as guides, slowly developing an “eco-tourism” from below. Still, the life is far from being rosy: young girls are still carrying heavy loads of wood in prevision of the harsh winter months. Though eco-tourism is on the rise, the illegal cutting of trees occurs on a large scale. Paradoxically, it is even on the rise, because of the boom on constructions in traditional Tibetan style coming from the rise in tourism activities. Like in the whole of southwest China, the model of development is still debated, and a choice has to be made between rapid enrichment and the preservation of resources that prove to be rare and precious, even in the privileged natural environment of Shangri-la.

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Friday, 22 April 2011 19:32

Urban Archaeologist

Chen Bo-I, aka 'The King of the ruins' doesn’t necessarily come across as glamorous as his nickname sounds. Currently, working on his PhD in Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering, a most realistic and practical trade, yet beyond his advanced studies in man-made structures on the ocean, he is also avid reader of the fascinating marks of history left on landbased structures. In the interview below he tells us how he got into this underground culture, how he works with the ruins in his photography and what he values about these decaying remains.

Hongmaogang Juancun (紅毛港眷村)

Why is this world...why is it so messed up? Because of typhoons, because of rains, those types of things, and floods, and mudslides, that's what normally causes it. But this is all caused by ships, and excavators. Why do they have to destroy our homes?

A young boy and resident of the Hongmaogang Community before it was destroyed - speaking in the documentary film Homeless (紅毛港:家變)

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In 2005 Chen Po-I (Bibi) started shooting some fishing villages or military dependents’ village where intensive city regeneration was underway.
 
Hongmaogang community, lying off the coast of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan was perhaps the best example of a juancun or military dependants’ village, a phenomenon unique to Taiwan. These juancun are particular to Taiwan in that they were made for the families of KMT soldiers who had come over from the mainland following the civil war . They were built as temporary settlements, since the prevailing idea at the time was that Taiwan was a temporary base for re-conquering of mainland China, thus the houses were put together with great haste, there were no regulations on how they were built and as such impulsive building of extensions and additions was the norm. This allowed a very natural human feeling to develop in the area. Eventually however, juancun residents would begin recieving notice that they were too leave the buildings, the moment residents have left the excavators get demolishing. Bibi, tries to get there first - like he did to take these photographs at Hongmaogang.
 

In 1968, Hongmaogang was declared land for building a port. However at the time they didn't have the funds to move all the people and instead time was frozen as the government declared new building or work on their current houses was banned. This strategy was not enough to suppress the residents will to build and throughout the 1970's the residents did all their building at night, while the police were off duty, so as not to be discovered. It was often the case that on waking up in the morning, a house would expanded a metre or two. It wasn't until 1986 that this provoked a government response in which they took aerial photos and stated that from then on the residents buildings were not allowed to change from the way they were captured in the aerial photos. Eventually in 2004 the government had sufficient funds and began moving the residents. In 2008 as the government evacuated the final inhabitants of the harbour, Chen Po-I took to action to make sure that there would always remain a poetic memory of the Hongmaogang Settlement, where for him life stories were the traces engraved in the walls. He also brought these photos together as part of his exhibition 'Outlook', giving the community the chance to share in these memories.

Walking the wires

On a more sober note one of the raiders nonetheless reminds us of the dangers of visiting ruins. The majority of these buildings are uninhabited and unkempt, some of them are as the name suggests, in ruins - states of devastation, with pieces of metal, wood, glass and sometimes even needles littering the floor, others are private property and guests are unwelcome. Be careful and aware when inside and only go into ruins with unlocked doors. If you listen to this advice however, everyone can be touched by the poetry of these ruins.

 


Tuesday, 27 September 2011 11:37

Sleeping people in Shanghai

Adrien Roger is a young French photographer living in Shanghai. He is featured this month on the virtual art gallery: Ipagine.com. He comments and explains his series entitled "sleeping people in Shanghai"  (Watch it here.)

"I was born in the suburb of Paris, and I live now in Shanghai. I always liked cameras but I realized rather late that it could not be a job. I started working in a studio specialized in fashion, and, at the same time, I did some traveling, mainly in Africa.


Thursday, 18 August 2011 00:00

Coffee and Photographs

Black Man Ray is an independent photography gallery, community and online publishing house based in Bandung, Indonesia. The gallery is run by Budi Sukmana, Dicky Jiang and Eric Setiawan who introduces below the concept and the genesis of this original project.

 

The idea for this gallery was conceived in January 2011 in Bandung, Indonesia. At that time Budi Sukmana and his family were about to open a small coffee shop and he offered some of the walls as a photography gallery. I immediately said yes and the idea started to grow from there.

Our initial aim was simply to enjoy photographs in print (because we all have spent too much time looking into monitors) in a more casual, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere with friends. But then, we also wanted to become a melting pot for photographers, where they could meet, talk, and share ideas and inspiration, a hub for young, emerging and underexposed artists who wanted to showcase their work and grow together with us.

At first, our biggest influence was Dr.Karanka's Prints Stravaganza. We thought that his concept suited our vision well. I started to contact many of my friends all over the world asking them to send some of their prints. The response was surprisingly positive and many started shipping their prints.

The concept of the gallery changed shortly before our first exhibition into a monthly photography exhibition by a single photographer who showcased their latest series/photo essay or their best personal work.

Small but sure steps

We are still small and young but I have to admit that our first exhibition caught many people's attention in Indonesia and abroad. Our first exhibition was dedicated to the people of Japan after the tsunami (March 2011). Also, the photographer Yamasaki Ko-ji is quite famous and respected in the photoblogging world. And he sold his prints for the first time ever for charity. The combination of all that gave us the boost we needed for our next journey.

After several months, I got the feeling that many people and artists had started to see our gallery as an alternative way to showcase their work. Therefore many send us now their less-famous, but more personal, work --- it is totally unexpected but we totally love the idea.

We are looking for photographers whose works we love and admire. It's that simple. If we love what we see (usually through the internet), we will try to contact him/her. Some of the early photographers exposed by us were actually our virtual friends we have met years ago.

Our main challenge now is to manage well our time in order to be able to run and to expand the activities of this gallery while we still have to work during the day and take care of our families, we are all fathers of young children. So far we are an independent gallery and we are self-funded. Our next challenge is to find more funding without changing our spirit.


From August 10th to September 11th, 2011, Black Man Ray presents a solo exhibition by Hubert Kilian.

Visit the gallery's website and tumblr.

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Photo courtesy of Eric Setiawan

 


Tuesday, 03 May 2011 18:55

The Beauty of Decay

Hubert has been living in Taipei for seven years. Every week, he spends in average six hours to stride along the streets of the city looking for the perfect snapshot which will yield the atmosphere that he feels and perceives himself. He is also a long time contributor of eRenlai where he has already published several photos. Here, he explains us why Taipei attracts him so deeply while showing us the hidden beauty of the city.


Thursday, 21 April 2011 18:23

Snappershot & Tainan Lutai

Cars, cameras and cats

Tainan's Lutai was established two years ago by Sam Wu (吳山姆) and (廖脆麵) as an exhibition space, and a gathering space for lovers of novelty model cars, photography and cats. While intially they were just content that they could provide this space, eventually they opened up a small vintage store inside, with the hope that in the future they could break even.

map

Snappershots Troupe (亂拍團) meet one Sunday every month. A group of people with similar interests – photography, exploration and anarchic spaces – meet at Tainan Lutai before gathering in a pre-selected block, with ruins a plenty and pearls waiting to be discovered. Lutai have even created a map (see right) of their favourite ruins in Tainan. In line with their passions the perimeter of the map is metamorphosed into a camera lens.

When was the first time you went ruin exploring? What stimulation do you get from these regular urban excursions? When I asked Gao Pu-chi what he likes so much about exploring these ruins, he said it was a house with no one inside, no one was looking after the house, but it ferments its own flavour, its own character and its own life as a ruin. What keeps him going still now he summed it up as 'danger'. Here are some of the photographic treasures Gao Pu-chi has brought back from these trips.

Cuimian (脆麵), one of the founders of Lutai, told me that above all Snappershot was for fun, the loose group had no strict rules and little responsibilities. They didn't go to shoot the classic tourist places, they searched out the wilder places in a state of decay such as shut down factories, unwanted houses and ruins. Originally there was 7-8 people participating. They would blog their photos and explorations and neventually people began to ask where these places were. Those who enjoyed Snappershot Sunday would come again and again, those who didn't wouldn't come a second time. Cuimian feels that ones outlook on the world can definitely be changed and enrichened by urban exploration. You will begin to search for the stories left over in the ruins, to appreciate the life and death of these constructions. The capturing these places on camera is different every time since everyone's eyes are different.

Images by Gao Pu-chi (高菩祁)

 

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Visual tours of recent architectural history are something that anyone can do by just wandering the streets and alleys… However if you want to try your hand with Snappershot you can contact Lutai and find out the dates of the next Snappershot excursion or alternatively if you are interested in having your own guided tour of the most marvellous of ruins in Tainan you could negotiate your own personal tour. If you can read Chinese you can also check their blog and facebook for updates.

Sam Wu: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 0925094096      Gao Pu-chi: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 0985091236

 


Wednesday, 21 April 2010 14:59

Snapshots of campuses in Taipei

These photos from Hubert Kilian capture the cadence of campus life in Taipei.  For many students class is of primary importance at university.  However the moments between classes can be just as enriching. Walking, chatting, day-dreaming, sleeping, sharing, cuddling or stressing.  These are often the memories that stay with us into the future.


Monday, 30 April 2007 09:08

Seeing Taipei from the crossroads

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Here is a collection of pictures by Hubert, who captures the atmosphere of Taiwan ‘s capital, working mainly in blank and white.

Crossroads’ zebras design the rhythm of a metropolis, creating continuities and breaks, allowing one to go from one space to another through a series of contrasts and transformations. In a city of 3 million inhabitants, crossroads appear no more like some meeting points but are some line-ruled paths with no ending. The only limits they seem to encounter are the surrounding buildings: they stand at the extremity of the road, lonely as the passer-by. Some will prefer to cut the crossing like this old lady, little dark figure disquieting the severe geometry of the white lines. But where is going that old man sunk in his meditation, under a dazzling sun? And these two girls holding each other by the waist? May their secret lie in the thin space between their two silhouettes?

Hubert’s pictures make us feel the pulse of a city when solitude and communication endlessly change into one another.

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