Today was the final critique for the workshop and overall I am pleased with the images that I selected. I think I made a lot of progress with my photography. All the feedback I got from the group was very useful and it was a great experience.  It was interesting to see the culmination of everyone else’s work and the development of my own. My first images were rather touristy and I didn’t have much of an idea of composition. The feedback I got at the last critique proved to me that I had more of a grasp of what to look for in my photography.

I realized today, that I am way more accustomed to navigating the Shanghai Metro on my own. At first taking the train by myself intimidated me, but now I am fairly used to it and can actually get places!  I think in a utopian society the perfect transit system would be a mix between Shanghai’s metro and NYC’s subway system; The cleanliness of Shanghai’s (and the cell phone service), but it would be open all night, instead of just until 11:00.

Since I am leaving on Sunday (sadly) I thought that a trip to Nanjing Road West was absolutely essential. I’m not generally a shopaholic, but I found it completely necessary to complete my Hello Kitty shopping before I left.  While browsing, I found a really nice Japanese restaurant where I had some delicious grilled chicken and rice. Full and happy, I then left Nanjing and went to the Kitty House Store near our apartments on Tianyaqao Road where I spent a ridiculously large amount of yuan getting my nails decked out with HK.  My wallet was nearly empty when I got home, but it was worth it; I am in China after all.

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June 22, Qibao!

Text and images by Bonnie Ellman

Inspired by our trip to the water town of Suzhou, I decided to see if there were any places similar that were closer to Xijahui. I was browsing a travel site and saw some photos of a small town called Qibao, another ancient water town only 7 metro stops away. My friend Yanxian happened to be visiting from Shenzen that weekend so I thought that it was a perfect locale for a short day trip, though I really do want to try to make it back to Jiangsu at some point before I leave.

Upon arriving there were tons of little shops and markets analogous to those in the water towns we visited, so I was tempted to go shopping. However, I decided that browsing for the day would suffice and before going to the water it would be a good idea to have lunch. My friend and I found a small (and very reasonable) dumpling place. The food was delicious and super cheap, so both of us left happy.
Although Qibao is much smaller than Suzhou, the section by the water is still lovely.  You enter Qibao through a small gateway and walk through shops until you get to the part that has all the water and bridges, which give the place a quaint charm.  Qibao, like the water towns is an incredibly picturesque place, so it was perfect for taking photographs.
After spending the day in Qibao my friend and I decided to go to the bund to have dinner. We dined at a place right with an excellent view called O’yamee and then checked out the Oriental Pearl tower. After that we took a stroll down the river front, which looks beautiful lit up at night. It was the perfect conclusion to a great day.
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June 17, Sunset on Pudong

Text and images by Matt Smith

Today was a wonderful day, despite the grueling heat and humidity.  We kicked off the week with our first group critique. Each student was required to bring 25 images that we had taken so far while in Shanghai. It was nice to see everyone’s unique perspective on the places we had visited and we began discussing what we would be doing for our personal projects over the course of the workshop. Ideas ranged from capturing found graphic designs to portraits of the wonderful couples we have been finding all over Shanghai who wear matching shirts or outfits in order to display their affection for the world to see. After a few hours of critique we all went our separate ways in order to get ready for our dinner later in the evening.

We met up in the lobby of our building and headed to the subway which we took to East Nanjing Road, a very commercial area with loads of tourists and Chinese. After a short walk we ended up at our destination, a rooftop restaurant located in the Captain Youth Hostel. The view was incredible. There was also a nice breeze which was a relief because it was so hot and sticky out, the hottest it has been so far on the trip. We got a few pizzas and hung out, waiting for the sun to set and the lights of Pu Dong (the sci-fi-ish looking financial area of Shanghai located just across the Huangpu River) to illuminate the night sky. The huge, glowing skyscrapers were truly a sight.

Still hungry, a few of us headed to a local restaurant, the Blue Frog, which has become a go-to place when in need of some American style dining (noodles, dumplings, and fried rice are great but you need a break every so often). We were especially excited to learn that on Monday nights you’re able to get buy one get one free burgers, which is crucial when trying to stick to a budget. Then we headed home, where my roommate Marty and I attempted to watch some Netflix. The internet in our apartment building is so slow that we were only able to watch about eight minutes of a movie before taking another 10 or so to load the next part. This was a bit frustrating when watching a very intense and suspenseful movie. After taking three hours to get halfway through End of Watch, we called it quits for the night and went to sleep in our hard, springy beds that I doubt I’ll ever get used to. All in all it was a great day and I’m looking forward to more adventures in China!

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June 16th, Day at the Park

Sunday was a free day and probably the first that I didn’t wake up at 5 in the morning.  I actually slept till 6:30 and was able to go back to sleep till 8am. My day started with a breakfast slice of bread covered with peanut butter and jelly.  Simple, quick and easy, no cooking required and no need to go out.  While I was waiting for my husband Larry to leisurely ready himself for the day, I went on the internet to check out exploration possibilities close by our apartments.  I was looking for a morning activity that might present us with good photographic possibilities.  There it was – a good size park within 20 minutes walk for me (I walk a strolling pace using a cane). It also happened to be right near to a building I was wanting to photograph.

This park, on a gentle hillside, was built on property where a factory once stood.  Its only remaining structure is a huge chimney that towers above the park like the many adjacent skyscrapers. As with the other Shanghai parks I have seen, it is a serene oasis for quiet meditation and relaxation in the midst of this metropolitan maelstrom.  The climate seems to offer a perfect opportunity to produce lush greenery. Several gardeners in orange attire attend to its appearance.  Tree-lined brick walkways network their way past manicured formal gardens.

One of its nicest features takes advantage of the sloping land.  One can enter the park at street level and actually walk across it diagonally on a walkway that gradually becomes an overpass.  Those who want to hurriedly pass through the park can enjoy its shade while not disturbing the serenity below. At the other end, people can descend via staircase or the wide spiraling down ramp depending on how rushed they are.

The park has several areas, each with some special feature.  There is a very large pond fed from little streams that originate from a spring in the park.  It is the home for fish, black swans and turtles and also serves as an excellent site for remote controlled miniature speedboats.

Several pavilions provide a shady tranquil spot in which to relax.  The park accommodates several hundred folks without losing its sense of quietude. Families come with little children to play with water toys, ride bikes and feed the fish and swans.  Individuals play music, games, and exercise through walking, stretching, jogging, and doing tai chi. Although all of this provided excellent photographic opportunities, it was difficult to focus on taking pictures. The persuasive peacefulness makes you content to just sit and watch the exotic world go by.

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June 14th, Camera Malls & Scooters

Text and images by Larry Proteau.

We left Vancouver last Saturday in light rain and mist and landed in Shanghai in light rain and mist. We went to the camera mall today in light rain and mist. Ever since our arrival, we have not seen the sun. It came close twice yesterday, but it did not quite make it. The weather has been consistently cool and humid. When I put on my pajamas at night, it feels like clothes that have not quite dried in a clothes dryer.  In spite of the weather and humidity, everything we do is different and interesting.

Walking down any major street is chaotic. The preferred mode of transportation is the scooter, including electric scooters and electric bicycles. The scooters and bicycles have assigned parking areas along the sidewalks, which means they have to drive off the street and onto the busy sidewalks to park. They don’t seem to care where the cars are, they just drive to wherever they need to be in any direction they want to go. Cars may turn right on red lights, no stop required. They just cut across the scooters and pedestrians and honk at anyone in their way.  They also honk at any other vehicle they think is blocking their progress. It is a constant cacophony.   New Yorkers may be used to such driving, but it is a great novelty for us, who live in a small city.

While many Chinese families have washing machines, few seem to dryers. Instead, clothes are hung out to dry. Newer apartments have balconies with portable foldout clothes racks. But most older buildings rig bamboo poles out of the windows. So laundry is often visible wherever you go. Almost everyone in the city lives in either small older apartments (6-story walk-ups) or newer tall apartment buildings (25 to 35 floors).  Whatever direction we look from our 17th floor apartment, we see residential buildings. We also saw them everywhere when we went on a tour to the countryside. Out along the highway to the historic water town of Suzhou, about one hour from the edge of Shanghai, there were clusters of a dozen of more high-rises every mile or two – increasingly encroaching on agricultural areas.

There are many surprising things in Shanghai to us westerner. Not the least of which are very small restaurants. During our city tour, our guide, Henry Hong, took us to lunch at one of these. The restaurateur quickly found a few foldout tables and some small stools and set them up on the sidewalk. Sitting outside, we ate rice and dumplings, which were delicious.

On our way to the Bund (central Shanghai’s waterfront area renown for its landmark colonial buildings and 2.5 mile-long promenade), we passed an electrical transformer with clothes hanging around it. I could not see how anyone could get up so high to hang laundry. I kept tying to figure out a reason for clothes hanging in such a dangerous location.

We also visited Shanghai’s famous Jade Buddha Temple.  It was an active religious site, not just a tourist attraction. In the central courtyard, there was a large burner for incense and offerings. It was quite impressive when smoke rose around the top. Two most interesting features at the temple were the turtle atop a bronze bell and people hand feeding the many carp in a small pond.

Altogether, every day is filled with wonders. At every turn there are opportunities for photographs. All the small things that are ordinary to the locals are different and strange to my western eyes. I expect that the next three weeks will be more and more enjoyable.

 

1-The Bund

2-Transportation

3-Laundry dryer

4-Apartments

5-Outdoor Lunch

8-Temple turtle

June 12th, First Impressions

Text and images by Martin Tannenbaum.

I’m sitting in my apartment, staring out the window at a building covered in neon lights and I am almost at a loss for words because I am still in complete disbelief that I am here.  Out of the few the places I have traveled, Shanghai has to be the biggest culture shock.  Living in New York City, it’s crowded and you see new things every day, but here the amount of people and things to do are extremely overwhelming.  The number of malls and restaurants, and places to see and do things is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever seen.

One of the biggest culture shocks is the food.  I am a fan of Chinese food, but the food that I am a fan of and accustomed to is, I guess, way more Americanized.  It’s more difficult to eat it everyday then I thought.  I have come across “American” restaurants, though, the kind that give you the comforts of home. Another thing I noticed is how inexpensive things are.  At the small markets, you can buy a bottle of water for what is equivalent to just about 16 cents.  That to me is mindboggling.

Out of all the tours we have gone on so far, my favorite has been going to the Jade Buddha Temple.  Once you walk into it, you feel this sense of calm (or at least I did). Just being inside and watching people pray, was moving in more ways then I can describe. Then, there was the reclining Buddha–one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

All in all, so far this trip is life changing.  It’s someplace I never thought I would be, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

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June 28th, Beijing and Three Shadows

Text and images by Michael Schmidt.

Trains and Elevators in China:
Be careful because it’s not like back home. The train does not open 11 times for you because your Jansport backpack got stuck. It actually doesn’t even open once for you. You get caught in the middle after the siren warns you and you just die, that’s all. No second chances, as there is no conductor saying “please stop getting your backpack stuck in the door”. The trains here are computer operated. I am not complaining because they are always on time. Same thing applies for the elevators. You can’t just manhandle the doors open because your girlfriend is late. The elevator monster will just eat your arms for breakfast, unless a nice old lady is inside holding the green door open button down for you. Get in or get out. I like that!

Bathroom Massage in Shanghai:
I heard the nightlife was great in Shanghai so I had to check out the scene with everyone. When we arrived at club “True Love” I had to pay a cover charge of 100 yuan since I am a male and it was ladies night. It almost seems unfair but I guess it’s a fair tradeoff because there are plenty of girls to choose from, if that’s what you’re there for. It is probably a better deal for the men actually. I would hate to be a girl at the club because just seeing the amount of creeps on the prowl, persistently harassing women, bothers me enough. Imagine how many of them are out in an American club, multiply that by two and you have club “True Love”.

The 100 yuan cover charge was actually a deal because they gave me a wristband and once I was in I could drink free all night. That’s about $16 to go clubbing on ladies night. The cab fare round trip is about $3 when divided by four people. So a good night can cost you less than $20 (The price of one mixed drink, including tip, at a high end club in New York City). No wonder I spend $100 on a night when I am out back home. I am really going to reconsider my spending now, this has put things into perspective.

From what I can remember, the night was great. There is one particular part I remember clearly because it was quite strange. When I first arrived at “True Love” I used the restroom (known as the washroom here in China). I did my thing and went to wash my hands. I was approached by the towel man, who was eager to turn the sink on for me and squirt some watered down soap into my hands. After washing and drying my hands for me, I was ready to give him a small tip, as this is expected in America. Apparently he wasn’t done yet! He snuck behind me and gently placed his left hand on the top of my head and his right hand just under my chin. For a moment I pictured a man snapping the neck of another in a Kung Fu flick. I told myself to just remain calm and see what would happen. The towel man then cracked my neck on both sides and it felt great. He then went on to massage my shoulders, upper and lower back. At this point I turned around and handed him 10 yuan but he declined my tip. I am not sure if he was sexually attracted to me, does that to every guy or if it’s just a normal custom here in Shanghai. Free massage and chiropractor services, so once again I am not going to complain.

Friendly taxis of Beijing:
The first evening in Beijing, Abby’s friend Xizi invites us out to dinner at the best duck place around. Everyone gets ready, heads out, and is divided into two groups for taxi hunting purposes. Lets just say that I picked Eli’s group and it was not the better choice. After the first ten empty taxis passed us without giving us the slightest bit of attention we started to become quite irritated. Abby’s group landed a cab just as it started to pour rain. This at least meant that there was some hope; since taxis actually do stop to pick people up, go figure. Mitch, Eli, Sora and I each took a corner of the intersection and tried to hail a taxi for the next forty-five minutes. Sora finally got one and we took off for our fancy duck dinner.

Since then I have learned not to try to get a taxi during rush hour. Your best bet is to take an illegal taxi and pay the extra 40 yuan. They know they can rip you off during rush hour and also on weekends. Personally, I think it’s worth it to pay the extra money for convenience. This doesn’t happen in Shanghai because the cab drivers from Shanghai are honest and hard working, I think.

Nobuyoshi Araki exhibition:
Since we know the famous Abby Robinson, we got the hook up on getting into the Nobuyoshi Araki show before the opening. Three Shadows gallery literally opened the show up just for our workshop. Let me just tell you that being in the space with only a few quiet people really made for an intimate experience. I felt as if it was just the photographs, the hauntingly beautiful music and I.

Araki’s show is titled Sentimental Journey/Decadence in Paradise. The show consists of beautifully taken and printed, black and white pictures of his wife during their honeymoon. These powerful images lead up to his wife’s death and then the death of his cat, which seems to be his only other close companion. Reading the artist statement alone gave me goose bumps but walking through the show sent chills down my spine. Never have I been so moved and saddened for another through a photographic essay. When I reached the picture of his wife in her casket, surrounded by flowers and hands, I nearly cried. The images then goes on to show the cat’s memorial, corpse, and then the bones of the cat after its flesh and organs have decayed over time. These pictures came one after the other and I felt the same grief I did for his wife.

Following the two large rooms of the initial prints you are led into an arrangement of huge framed prints that hang in front of your face. It is set up sort of like a funhouse so you have to walk between the hanging life size images, which were quite disturbing still lifes ,in which there were dolls that I believe represented his wife and Tyrannosaurus Rex that represented himself. I believe the dinosaur was used to describe his anger and sadness, but this is my opinion as I am writing this from my own perspective.

At the end of the show there were projected images of Araki and his wife. Some of the black and white images had splats and strokes of very colorful paint on them. For me this made the images very strange and sexual. I see the projected images as memories of things that Araki loved but has now lost.

I will go as far as saying this is the best exhibition I have ever experienced. This perfectly curated show had a huge impact on me. Before this I did not know of Nobuyoshi Araki, but now he is one of my favorite artists. Making great photographs is one thing, but creating such a profound photographic diary and mournfully affecting an audience is something else.

June 27th, The Great Wall

Text and images by Mitchell Paster.

On June 26th the wonderful leaders of troop 438 took us on a trip that might have changed our lives forever! When the bus arrived to begin our excursion we all joyfully climbed aboard only to find that it wasn’t a private tour like we were used to, it was a group tour. After realizing that we weren’t being spoiled per usual, the troop was OK. The tour guide told us that on this trip we would be first stopping at a jade factory to see how they make all sorts of jade sculptures. What this really was was a forced trip to a glorified gift shop. Granted I found the jade jewelry and sculptures very impressive, but I thought this was a trip to the Great Wall of China not a tour of my empty pockets.

After that we were taken to the Ming Tombs, which is a large area that houses the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The tombs were interesting but they felt kind of touristy. Everything seemed as if it had been redone relatively recently, all of the pillars and archways seemed to be somewhat freshly painted. I was expecting it to be more of a “National Treasure” type of place, in which I surely would have been Reilly. We then headed on an hour-long trip up to the great wall area where we were to have lunch. Lunch was served to us promptly upon arrival, it felt more like Americanized Chinese food, but it was quite good. After lunch we had about a 5 minute bus ride to the wall.

We arrived at the wall at 1pm and were told to be back at the bus by 3pm. As we walked up we were informed that we would be taking a chair lift up and a toboggan down from the wall. I felt this was a little strange as it was combining historical wonder with modern fun. After we made it through all of the vendors trying to sell us all sorts of hats and t-shirts and tchotchkes, we boarded the chairlift. When we reached the top we took a few group photos and began our hike to the heights tower of the section where we were, Mu Tian Yu. It took just short of an hour to make the whole climb. Most of my time I was just in awe of the beautiful mountains we were traversing, along with the fact that I was walking along something that is older than my country. I kept saying to myself “this should be renamed the amazing wall of China.” Climbing the Wall and being at this site has since been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life.

When we left we had about an hour and a half drive to (drum roll please) a silk factory!!! We got to watch a 4-minute tour of how they get silk from the worms and see how strong it is. After that we spent the better part of a half hour trying to avoid sales people from harassing us to buy things. We got dropped off back at our hostel and the day was over.

June 26th, To Beijing!

Text and images by Patricia Peguero-Vidal.

Last night everyone went back to their apartments early to do some photo editing and last minute packing as we had to be up early the next morning to head out to Beijing. Nova and I packed rather quickly and then stayed up late, swapping stories and thinking about what Beijing would have in store for us – figuring we could catch up on sleep on the five-hour bullet train to our destination. Believing that we’d set our morning alarms, we went to sleep late. However, the alarms were not set properly and instead I just so happened to wake up about ten minutes before we were supposed to meet with everyone downstairs. Realizing that Nova had also overslept I began yelling “Oh! Nova wake up! We’re gonna be late!” and with that- there was a sudden mad rush around the apartment. Quickly throwing on some clothes and making sure not to leave the essentials behind, we ran downstairs and, although the last ones to join the group, we made it!

Thus, our journey to Beijing began and we headed out to the closest metro station with our luggage and, although somewhat tired, we had enough energy to dodge the morning rush of people: carrying our suitcases up and down several flights of stairs, boarding train cars, squeezing in to find our spots in the morning commute. Excited but aware, careful not to fall behind and get lost in the masses of natives on their way to work. We finally arrived to the train station and made our way to our gate. Once we all boarded the train we instantly became the “excited Americans on a bullet train to Beijing.” The five hours seemed to fly by rather quickly and once we arrived in Beijing we headed to what would be our new home for the week.

When we finally arrived at the hostel, our group of six photographers realized that if we didn’t already know each other closely, well, we were about to. We were going to be staying in the same room with three bunk beds and a shared bathroom. It was pretty funny, to be quite honest, it felt as though we had a case of the summer-camp-jitters as we rushed to claim top or bottom bunks. After finally settling in, we met up with Xizi, a former student of Abby’s, who invited us out to a wonderful Peking duck dinner in one of the traditional restaurants in the brightly lit Hou Hai Lake area. We ate an amazing family style traditional Chinese dinner and after many turns of the lazy Susan, full of lovely foods I had never thought of trying before, we had our duck served to us tableside. After a long but beautiful day, we headed back to our new Beijing home, full and ready to capture the city during the week.

Thursday, June 21st

Text and images by Ariel Bobson.

We started off the day at the Shanghai Museum. We travelled there together and then went our separate ways when we arrived in order to explore on our own. I found the visitors there more engrossing than anything else on display. It seems like people are obsessed with photos of themselves anywhere we go. There is a formula to it; pose in front of whatever makes that specific location instantly recognizable, run to the camera to view the image, and retake. The second photo differs from the first in a few ways: position of the subjects amongst each other (the most body conscious hide behind the children), position of the head (to avoid multiple chins), and position of body parts (to instantly distinguish the relationship the subjects have to one another).

On a more general note, I need to vent for a minute. The food, THE FOOD. It’s not bad, it’s actually delicious… in small doses. Shanghainese cuisine (like Shanghai itself) is new and expansive. Specialties range from dim sum (soup dumplings, steamed buns), street food (sesame balls, scallion pancakes), typical noodle joints and tiny storefronts displaying a myriad of fried foods that lead right onto the sidewalk. It’s so exciting to point to something that smells delicious and devour it on the spot, not to mention that the most delicious discoveries come from the street and virtually cost nothing.

This food doesn’t come without a price. My stomach is upset. What’s doing it is the oil. There seems to be a thick layer of it sitting at the bottom of the bowl/plate/container/carton only to be noticed during the last few bites of whatever I’ve just eaten. This isn’t a good thing, nor is it a bad thing, it’s just different than what I’m used to. Therefore, when a small group of us barreled into a familiar fast food chain during a recent photo safari, our reaction to the chain’s offerings was more than slightly atypical, “this food is amazing,” “it’s just so good,” “I feel like I just ate a healthy meal.”

As previously stated, I love the food here, I really do. I’d eat dumplings every day, but my western insides insist that I don’t. The situation was looking pretty grim until I googled “American food in Shanghai” and found every kind of food I would want delivered right to my door! Crisis averted.