Archive for May, 2010


Shanghai Minimalism

It’s official, summer is here and everyone is on vacation. Couple that with the allure of the World Expo, friends and family are pouring into Shanghai in droves.

I love showing people around, enjoying good food and sights of what Shanghai has to offer. Some want to see New Shanghai and are endlessly dazzled by the brights lights, big city. Others want a peek at old neighborhoods after a long day of fighting crowds at the Expo site.

As for me, I’ve seen the Bund a few too many times, almost everyday in fact. I’ve memorized the outline of the city landscape from various perspectives (from both sides of the river, to and North and South of the Bund) and as they say, you can’t get too much of a good thing.

All along the Bund, teeming masses of humanity adopt a common posture: arms outstretched with a camera/phone in hand. How can you not? Dare to go home without the obligatory Shanghai skyline? Never.

But I’ve had my fill. So a little minimalism is in order. Like a tiny thumbprint in the corner of a photo.

April 2010. Taken at 5am at sunrise on the Bund.


Insert thought bubble here

Sometimes, there is nothing worse than having someone notice you with a camera. Or when you hit a low point in your photography for the day.

There are times when I take my kit out for a spin and position it by my hip to randomly capture anything that passes me. The diversity of the random, bizarre and mundane amuses me. Every once in a while, you chance upon a gem like this.

When I see this, I have a strong urge to draw in a thought bubble and guess what he is thinking.

What to eat for lunch or dinner? Strategizing the next mahjong session? Perhaps a haircut is overdue.

The endless possibilities of a wandering mind.

February 2010

On a separate note, I’ve noticed a huge jump in readership in the past week and wanted to extend a hearty welcome to new readers and thank existing readers for being patient with my slower pace of posting of late. Work and travel has kept me busy, regular programming will resume soon.

Finally, I was interviewed by BBC Vietnam last week about Shanghai’s development and the blog, the video is here. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a radio interview, I clearly did not dress/make up for the occasion.


Lessons from shooting 2010 我在上海 世博特刊 (Part 2)

I’ve been wanting to share stories from a photo shoot I did for <<2010 我在上海 世博特刊>> “2010 In Shanghai: World Expo edition” but preferred to wait until the travel magazine hit the stands.

I wanted to capture children of fishmongers, poultry and vegetable hawkers at the Hongkou market, whom I’ve photographed many times before. With the adults’ expressed permission, I found myself in the longtangs amidst screaming kids, facing one hilarious challenge after another. Here are some humbling lessons I’ve learned, applicable, to all photographers.

Continue reading ‘Lessons from shooting 2010 我在上海 世博特刊 (Part 2)’


Shooting the cover for 2010 我在上海 世博特刊 (Part 1)

I’m most excited to share with you a Shanghai travel book entitled <<2010 我在上海 世博特刊>> produced by one of the most popular travel companies in Taiwan – Lion Travel.

They approached me to shoot (part of ) a cover for their upcoming book on Shanghai, timed to release during the opening of the Shanghai Expo. They clearly had a unique vision and all credit to them for taking a chance on my style and doing such a phenomenal job on the book.

I shot the cover of the little boy in a Hongkou longtang, and can’t wait to give Ah-da and his family their own copy. I’ll share more about that photo shoot next time. Just know I endured kiddy snot and mucus on my 5D, be still my terrified heart.

They even included a photographer’s note toward the end of the book, where I talk about Shanghai through my eyes.

A pleasure working with the creatives over at Lion. I love their passion and professionalism! Do pick up a copy if you’re in Taiwan!

很高兴能和你分享一本上海旅游书,是非常受欢迎的台湾旅游公司- 雄狮旅游 -出版的. 我很荣幸能帮他们拍封面,是虹口区的一个小弟弟.我很期待把杂志给小啊达和他家人.

旅游书内还用了我其他作品,都是我非常喜欢的. 而后面也有摄影师的短文.他们把我英文的短文翻译成中文.


谢谢雄狮旅游! 如有机会,请购买一本吧!

For Taiwan friends (在台湾的朋友)

For China friends (在中国的朋友)

You can see more of my published work here.


Where for art thou, spring?

Spring has appeared to have missed Shanghai completely. Or perhaps it was so fleeting having come and gone in a blink of an eye.

Winter has been arduously long in Shanghai, and instead of rolling into a late spring, the breezy comforts and all its luscious blooms are all but forgotten.

I recalled a few weekends of strolling through gardens so colorful and perfumed, I felt my fellow park patrons, like me, were drifting on clouds. Everyone was smiling, not scowling, and basking in nature’s generosity.

Of late, the flowers still remain though they are not as fresh.  Like my fellow city-folk, they are feeling wilted and harried under the growing humidity.

Beware. Summer is near. Beware.


Shanghai’s scrapers

The other day, a woman fell out of the sky and missed me by an inch.

You think I’m making this up?

I was hurriedly striding along the pavement when suddenly, a middle-aged peasant woman from above pounced in front of me and instinctively grabbed me for balance. I did the same but she fell to the ground anyway.

I cursed irrately, my heart still racing from the shock. Was this just a bad accident or was I an unsuspecting support stoop? Bad enough I have to deal with tourists who stop in the middle of human traffic to gawk at the Pearl Tower, and the occasional shovers with nary an apology to be heard. Now, falling human bodies?

The peasant woman had long greasy hair tied neatly in a pony tail and wore a clashing outfit of a red office jacket and jeans, paired with dusty heels. She brushed herself off without a word. That was when I noticed a pile of scrap metal scattered on the floor. I realized she had scaled the wall of a construction site to pick scrap metal for sale. Where profits were concerned, it was a mine field.

Suddenly, I heard a loud clang followed by a thunderous bellow.

Another scraper had thrown a large piece of scrap over the wall without even looking. It barely missed another pedestrian, who was so angry he began hurling verbal abuse at the pair of them. Clearly used to this (disturbingly), they merely picked up their wares and walked away.

I notice them everday now, hanging outside the construction site, occassionally in mid-climb. I’ve stopped walking on that side of the street. Lest more falling metal and women rain on my way home.

The photo above was taken in March 2010 of scrapers in Dongjiadu.

For more stories and news on China’s scrapping industry, I heartily recommend you check out Adam Minter’s work.


Morning run on the Bund

You spot them in the distance, like a millipede on speed.

Bobbing up and down, not necessarily all in-sync, this group of young police cadets with freshly shaven heads (clearly not military as their appearance and movements lacked that kind of razor-sharp precision you see in the army) stood out amidst the usual crowd on the Bund at 7am.

For one, they were running faster and in a forward direction. Did that statement sound weird? It shouldn’t at all.

Many older people, in addition to strolling or brisk walking normally, like to reverse their motions and walk backwards. Logically, they worked the muscles in a way not often used. Most importantly, many like to wave their warms up and down, back and forth, often clapping loudly as the move. An elderly lady mentioned to me that it released energy with each clap and stretches her arms. She was almost 85 and had a rosy glow. The entire time we had a conversation, she stared earnestly at me while clapping her hands non-stop, as if applauding me in advance for anything I had to say. Clearly only one of us was a little thrown off.

Yet it made me slightly nostalgic as we used to do these exercises in primary (or grade) school back in Singapore, conducted on-mass like a good Japanese corporation you see on television in the 1990s.

And then there are the creative ones. A man in a velour tracksuit was speed walking, his hips shaking like Beyonce while separately massaging two large marble balls in his hands, which old people like to use to keep up dexterity in their fingers.

Another gentleman who, while flying his kite, started stretching and dancing to the kite’s movement. A high-kick here, a leg-lift there – all in a day’s work. A few individuals were seen running in a work shirts and jeans, perhaps on their way to work? Hmm.

I followed the young men for a bit, jogging alongside them as I photographed, not a great move in hindsight. Any attempt at conversation was ignored, but it was inevitable that they started grinning at the spectacle of my clumsy coordination, what with the camera and all.

You see odd things in the morning on the Bund, but they merely add to the flavor of it all.

May 2010

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