A River runs through it – Jiashan

This is a scene that could be cliche and is in great danger of maybe being seen as one.  The Chinese boatman working his way down the river in the light snow with his umbrella trying to keep him dry from the elements while he works his way.

With some careful cropping and perhaps switching to a telephoto lens, I could have isolated the boat-man from the background, but included much old village that he had just pulled out of. I do have a series of photographs as he made his way down the river.

That would have made a wonderful postcard, but not what I was seeing. Even though there were many postcard opportunities for me, even to the point that I found the Mandarin word for postcard (ming xin pian) such that I might have made a stamp for it to create a Folio of prints.

This photograph is more about the current urban Chinese landscape. One side is the old (water) village, probably over 500 years old and on the other side of the river (maybe a canal) is the new city rising on the dust of the old village. The river is the great divide and we have a boat man leaving the old village into the divide, perhaps going to the other side, but most probably down the river, with both sides pulling at him. (which I know, since I stood in that miserable weather long enough to see, but you would not neccessarily know that by just looking at this one photograph, eh?)

Another keeper for me.

Last night I started whitling down my China portfolio into three series groups. I think that there will be two of the series that will be just China, but now I am considering a series of a greater magnatuide.

Perhaps this is part of the evolution of working on projects and photographic series. You start with projects that are relatively small in scope, whether that is 10 photographs or 50 photographs. Much like cutting your first teeth. Painful but learning many lessons and much about yourself.

You are getting your voice, and starting to talk and you realize that you are communicating. But not ready to go on stage and belt out a song in front of large crowd. Then the confidence to do some small local performances, but still you are not exploring your full voice. Now the confidence is growing, or perhaps you find you enjoy it and no one threw tomatoes at your head. And they asked for more. Huh? And so you spread you wings even further and start to let you voice really go.

Thats kinda what I feel. Now I am considering a project of a larger scope, bringing together photographs from Southern California, Asia and Europe in a unified body of work. So I will continue to work on this straw man or rather project “dummy” and see if it holds up. I have been writing a bunch of notes about this for the last couple of months, so it is time to unify these thoughts into a book “introduction” otherwise known as artist statement.

Best regards, Doug

4 thoughts on “A River runs through it – Jiashan

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  1. Since I have never been to that part of the world and have no collection of postcards from there, this doesn’t come close to being a cliche for me. I can feel the rain. Nasty weather for you and the boat man, but it made for a wonderful image. I am grateful you weren’t able to frame tighter. The entire story works for me. The contrasts between the two worlds is powerful and the small boatman armed with with his umbrella is so very human. This is now my favorite of your shots from China.

  2. Mmmm. This post captures so much of what I learned about China, and so much of what I’ve learned about the ‘projects’ process.

    The photo (which might be cliched, and might not, and I’d suggest that’s not a very interesting question/issue) just rings ‘China’ to me. Everywhere we went in China, from the cities like Shangai or Beijing or Hong Kong, all the way out to the towns/villages – there’s this overwhelming sense of ‘one foot on the platform/one foot on the train’ to the whole amazingly big place.

    And I am struggling with many of the same ‘project/series’ issues as well.

    Nice photo. Nice post.

  3. Paul, thanks! and I really like your analogy about the ‘one foot on the platform/one foot on the train’ which actually crystalizes some thoughts for me.

    Double thanks!!

  4. Wow, amazing shot. Not that cliche to me. In fact a cropped version would be much more cliched. Its great this way, with lots of surroundings. It’s the bigger picture :-)

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