My first month as a full-time photographer was spent in the streets of Shanghai. My sister worked as a teacher in China at this time and the mom and I decided to go and crash on her couch for a month. We had no plan- we just took each day as a new adventure.
The first journey the mom and I embarked on was one of finding temples. Each temple had it’s own story to tell- some were older and had a more traditional feel to them. Others were a bit more modern and tourist focused. Regardless of the type of temple I walked into, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the monks. I made it my mission at each temple to get a few shots of the monks going about their monk-life. Some of them were very relaxed about the idea of being photographed, but others were quite aggressive in their disdain for having their picture taken. I tried to be as respectful as I could as a westerner in a strange environment.
I was enchanted with people praying and I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off them. One man, probably my age, fell to his knees in front of the Buddha statue and remained there for about 15 minutes. The desperation in his eyes was absolutely haunting. He spent every second begging and pleading and my heart couldn’t help but break for him. I was so mesmerised by this person and this moment in time that I forgot to take a picture of him.
My next mission was street photography. I found a well-lit corner in West Nanjing road and took a few shots of the bikes riding past me. Some bikes had huge loads of polystyrene on them, others a small basket with groceries. All the different types of bikes and scooters one can come across in Shanghai fascinated me.
As I was standing on my corner, waiting for my moment to capture, I was approached by a (dare I say) drunken man. His accent sounded American, but it was hard to tell through the tipsy slurs in his speech. He asked me the usual list of questions; “Where are you from?” “What are you doing?” etc. He ended his interview off with a brash; “Do you like the Chinese?” I was absolutely baffled by this question. After only being in China for a week, I could not possibly from an opinion on an entire nation solely based on such a short amount of time.
I answered his with a confused mumble and he started off on this monologue describing in detail why he hates the Chinese. I was quite upset when this man walked off. How can you live in a place where you hate everything and everyone around you? How can you hate an entire nation if you haven’t even bothered to learn their language and understand their culture? Hating an entire nation is hard work. I truly hope that this man realises that life is too short to be stuck in an unhappy place.
One of the greatest treasures from my time spent in Shanghai was the time spent with my mom and sister. We had so much fun eating noodles on the floor, drinking all the tea, making new friends and just having a blast. Family is so precious. We only have a short time on earth and I’m so glad I got the chance to go on this adventure with my family. Hopefully it’s just the beginning of a new chapter in the Chronicles of the Traveling Trio.
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