Hong Kong Express is a series that explores the everyday life of the people that call Hong Kong (2017) their home. In this fast moving and densely populated city, I sought to showcase daily activities and portray beauty in that exists between moments of routine life.
Luo Jian is a Chinese documentary photographer based in Paris and Beijing. After working 10 years as a photojournalist in the Chinese press industry, he decided to move to France where he began a new photography journey. His work focuses on the life of the people with a geopolitical background. He tries to find the fundamental relations between Man and the modern society and presents them through his lenses.
The project concentrates on the living situation and the inner life of the Tibetan nuns. The population of this group gradually declines as a result of accelerated urbanization in Tibet and tightened religious control by the Chinese government. Their lifestyle also reflects, to a certain extent, the destiny of Tibetan women under the pressure of religious tradition and patriarchal society.
I recently joined a street portraits group on Facebook, and without wanting to be overly critical of other photographers’ work, I’ve found a good 90% of the images posted extremely boring and unimaginative (when they actually hit the brief, which is rare). Pictures taken on long lenses with no engagement with the subject; the camera pointed randomly at the street, shooting normal looking people behaving normally with no real subject or point of interest; paparazzi/stalker-style shots as the photographer is scared to approach people; boring shots converted to B&W in the hope they’ll appear more interesting; the list goes on.
Street portraiture is probably my favourite type of photography – I’ve been published for it and have another whole website dedicated to it – and whilst I’m no expert or professional, I like to think I’m half decent at it at least. So here are my tips to avoid boring street portraits and to make more compelling and intimate images.
Probably the most famous piece of photography advice ever given is Robert Capa’s “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. Here was a man who was so determined to get ‘close enough’ that he actually took part in the Normandy landings, so if he can jump off a boat and take pictures whilst being shot at by the Nazis, you should have no fear getting up close to people on the street!
All too often I see photographers on my photo tours show up with long lenses and shoot people from a distance, and it’s pretty much always because they’re too shy to approach people. The problem with the images they take is that there’s no engagement or intimacy, there’s no story, and there’s no sense that the photographer is in any way involved with the subject, so the pictures look cold as a result. Most of my street portraits are taken with my trusty 24mm lens, which means I have to get pretty close.
I’m not suggesting you go all Bruce Gilden or Tatsuo Suzuki and get right up in people’s faces whether they like it or not (though you can if you have the confidence – and the running speed – to do so!); what I am suggesting is that you overcome your shyness and simply talk to people. If you see someone who looks interesting, politely ask them if you can take their photograph (or if there are language barriers, use gestures to indicate that you want to photograph them). They will either say yes (here in Thailand that’s a 99% probability), in which case you get your shots, or they will say no. And if they say no, you just move onto the next shot. It really is that simple. People love it when someone shows a flattering interest in them, and if they’re a little reticent or reluctant, just explain that you’re a street photographer and like shooting interesting-looking people. Give them a business card if you have one, or take their email address and promise to send them a shot. Works nearly every time.
The example above shows why you shouldn’t be shy. It was taken under a flyover in Bangkok’s Khlongtoey ‘slum’ district, and the subject maybe isn’t necessarily someone you or I would feel comfortable approaching, but it’s that intimidating look – the shaven head, the scowl, the tattoos – that make him such an interesting subject. As it was he was more than happy to sit for a few shots, and poses for me every time I see him to this day.
Look for Interesting People
It goes without saying that quirky, eccentric-looking people make for more interesting street portraits. Yes, everyone has a story, but from a photography point of view, visually striking people make for better portraits. There is a risk with eccentrics – especially when you’re shooting homeless people, buskers etc – that your pictures can appear exploitative, or freak show-y; so take the time to engage with your subject, chat to them, find out their story, make them feel comfortable with being photographed, and show them the pictures you’ve taken.
This guy is my favourite photography subject in the world. His name is Khun Lem and he lives in a tiny shack in Khlongtoey. At first glance he looks like someone you’d cross the street to avoid, but stop and chat to him and you discover he’s a very friendly guy who will happily give you a swig of whatever he’s drinking at the time. A good example of why you shouldn’t be intimidated by eccentrics and spent some time engaging with them before, during and after you shoot.
One of my favourite photography Youtubers is travel photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich, aka mitchellkphotos. He makes short, sweet and very informative videos, and the video below is very possibly the best short photography advice video I’ve ever watched.
In the clip, Mitchell talks about the visual ‘weight’ or importance that each element in the picture has, and how, as human beings, we give human faces – and the eyes in particular – more weight than anything else in a photograph. Essentially, if there’s a face in a picture, that’s what we go to first, and it’s the eyes that draw us in the most. Often we’re in such a rush to take a street portrait that we don’t take the time to look at the eyes and play around with eyelines, but they really do make or break a picture. As Mitchell says, a subject looking directly at us adds an intimacy or even an intensity to an image:
…whilst a subject looking away from us and out of the shot adds a whole new storytelling dimension to a picture. In the shot below, why is the old man looking up? Has he seen something above him? Is it a look of despair? Is he looking at the station clock? His eyes totally transform the picture from a simple portrait into something different:
Use Context to Tell Stories
One of the great things about street portraits is that we are shooting people on their home turf, in their natural environment, living their regular lives, rather than in the sterile environment of the studio. So whilst the temptation is often to shoot just the face, sometimes it’s better to stand back (or zoom out), and apply some context. Faces themselves don’t tell the whole story, and it’s only when we show that person in their surroundings that the full story emerges, like this shot of a man in his shack in Khlongtoey:
And the guy below is pretty colourful and charismatic enough in himself, but by pulling back and showing that he’s sitting in a restaurant, the picture becomes even more interesting:
Look for Contradictions
We love the unexpected, and so photos that show people doing things they wouldn’t normally do, or in places they wouldn’t normally be, naturally stand out & appeal to us – it’s why photographers love those shots of policemen dancing with revellers at the Notting Hill Carnival, or why politicians like to be photographed playing football or having a drink in a pub. In Southeast Asia, monks are a popular subject here – seeing a monk using a mobile phone, smoking a cigarette or running for a bus is like catnip to street photographers, and so when I saw this charismatic monk in a woolly hat and shades, I simply had to take his picture. The train in the background, and the matching colours, make this one of my favourite pictures.
And in the shot below, there’s a nice contrast between the tough-looking shirtless tattooed guy and the tenderness he shows his sleeping daughter:
Such pictures aren’t easy to come by, can’t really be staged and require considerable luck and patience – make sure you’ve mastered your camera settings so you can get that shot when it comes up!
Photography is, of course, all about light, and few things give me more satisfaction as a photographer than a beautifully lit image. The light can sometimes become a subject in itself, and can transform an otherwise unremarkable scene or subject into a thing of beauty. Sometimes you just happen to catch someone in a perfect patch of light and simply have to photograph them, such as the tattooed guy in Khlongtoey below who just happened to be sitting in a patch of sunlight outside his house:
And sometimes it’s the light itself that tells the story and guides you to the subject. The picture below is a prime example. I’d had a frustrating morning’s shooting and was, as usual on such an occasion, heading home whilst muttering about giving up altogether, when I spotted a narrow alleyway with a food stall in it, into which a shaft of sunlight was shining, as if beckoning me in and encouraging me not to give up and go home. This old guy just happened to be facing right into it, I got one of my favourite ever shots, and the day was saved!
Shoot a Series or Project
Thinking in terms of a project or series can help you focus and achieve some consistency and style in the pictures you take. You’re also more likely to get noticed and published if you can put your images together into a project – editors are more likely to work with you if you can create interesting and cohesive photo essays, ideally with some linking text. I was getting absolutely nowhere until I put together my Faces of Khlongtoey project, but have now been published several times as a result of that one project.
Also think about shooting at specific events – sporting events, protests, celebrations, anything. People are generally either more relaxed or less likely to notice you when they have something specific to focus on, and so they’re a great way to get lots of good portraits. The images below were taken during an afternoon of drinking and photographing at a cockfighting stables in the Bangkok slums with a couple of Russians. And it’s not often you say that.
Relax & Engage
Finally, and possibly most importantly, it’s very important that your subjects – and you – are relaxed when shooting takes place. We’re often tense when shooting people we’ve just met and tend to rush our shots as a result, but we need to take a deep breath, look around, establish the context, study the subject, and decide what pictures we want to make.
And often – particularly here in Asia – when you ask if you can take a person’s picture, they’ll adopt a rigid , serious pose, smile directly at you, or make the peace sign at you. These are fine if that’s the kind of image you want, but they don’t make for good street portraits. If this happens, signal to the subject that you’d rather they just carried on with whatever they were doing that made them so interesting to you in the first place, or indicate that you want them to look off-camera. If they’re still rigid, take a couple of shots and show them. They’ll instantly relax, and probably laugh, at which point you can fire off a few more spontaneous shots, and there are more likely to be winners.
I was attracted to this guy (in Hanoi) by his pipe smoke, but when I asked him for a picture he hid the pipe down by his side and just smiled at me, so I asked him to keep smoking, which is how I got the ‘money shot’ here. If someone’s agreed to be shot, they won’t usually mind you directing them a little bit.
So to sum up, shooting street portraits is nothing to be scared of. Relax, be friendly, think about what you’re doing, find interesting people and stories, and think about eyes, context/background, and light. Remember that and your street portraits will go from boring to brilliant in no time at all.
New Bangkok Workshop for Beginner Street Photographers
Bangkok, 12 October 2020: Bangkok-based photography enthusiasts who want to get started with street photography have the opportunity to join a new workshop next month and learn some basic methods and techniques. The workshop, Street Photography For Beginners, is organised by Tim Russell Photography and local tour operator Expique, and takes place on Saturday 7 November.
The workshop includes an introduction to street photography and its different styles, along with modules on equipment & settings, common street photography mistakes, photographing people, shot list ideas, processing and more. After the classroom session photographers will be sent on an assignment before returning to the workshop to process their images and submit them for critique.
The course will be led by local amateur photographer Tim Russell, whose street photos have been widely published in the region and beyond. “I see a lot of amateur photographers trying to get started with street photography but not really understanding what it is” he told us. “There is more to it than just pointing your camera at the street, and so in this workshop we aim to go over a few basic approaches and techniques, and help attendees gain more confidence and move away from the ‘smiling street vendor’ school of street photography that is sadly ubiquitous here in Southeast Asia!”
The workshop takes place at a truly unique venue, The Market Experience at Bangkok’s colourful Pak Khlong flower market. The venue was opened by Expique in 2018 to host cooking and flower arrangement classes for tourists, and occupies a prime location on the market’s mezzanine level looking down on the colour and bustle below.
“I can’t think of a better venue for a street photo workshop” says Tim. “We’re right in the middle of the city’s biggest flower market, and the surrounding streets are full of food stalls and shophouses, with the Chao Phraya river just behind us. It’s a paradise for street photographers so we hope our students will get some great images to share with us.”
Originally from the UK, Tim has been in Southeast Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012. He is a keen amateur street and travel photographer and his work has been featured in numerous publications including Asia Photo Review, Southeast Asia Globe, The Word, Bangkok 101 and more, as well as on his own websites, Tim Russell Photography and his project on the Bangkok slums, Faces of Khlongtoey.
Expique offers a range of innovative tours & experiences so you can truly experience the uniqueness of Bangkok and the local culture. These include Food Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Walking Tours, eScooter Tours, Team Building Events and more.
In addition, Expique operates its own workshop space in Pak Khlong Talad Flower Market from where it runs cooking classes and creative workshops. Find out more at www.expique.com.
Diaspora, I have made attempts to understand this term, but it’s meaning escapes me like vapors through an open window. As soon as my mind begins wrapping itself around the concept, it’s gone, moving to take another form. Perhaps there is no simple way to encapsulate it. The idea of diaspora has become more than the movement of people, it’s about identity and what these people experience after they’ve moved.
For immigrants and many of their descendants, they grow up on the precipice of two or more ethnic identities. The push and pull from wanting to know where you’re from so you can know who you are and who you might become. Trying to fit in one place all the while maintaining connection to a place your family calls “home”, but the memories of “home” are not ones you’ve made for yourself.
For photographer Mark F. Erickson, his photobook Other Streets: Scenes from a Life in Vietnam not Livedis an exploration of capturing his Vietnamese identity and creating his own memories of home. Mark was born in Saigon in 1972, evacuated as part of Operation Babylift in April 1975, and adopted by an American family in western New York.
Mark’s photobook has been exhibited at the L.A. Center of Photography, the Davis Orton Gallery, and the Griffin Museum of Photography. He has been profiled in The Photobook Journal, diaCRITICS: the arts & culture of the Vietnamese and SE Asian diaspora, the Worksleeve podcast, and VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America) Books.
In this interview, I speak with Mark about his photography and how the medium helped him get a glimpse into a life he might have lived.
What are some things you want to say and explore with photography? What do your photographs mean to you?
I love words and I read a lot of books. But I also love the visual arts because there are some things that cannot be expressed with words. And the wordlessness of photography, in particular, leaves a lot of space for engagement and interpretation by the viewer. In that sense, what I’m trying to say with photography is beyond words. What I am trying to explore and what it means to me is more explicable. It is an external representation of an internal exploration of who I am, where I come from, and how I fit into the world.
Can you please detail how Robert Frank’s The Americans influenced your style of documentary photography?
The Americans influenced me in many ways. First, while there are many noteworthy individual photographs in the book, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Frank included what others might perceive as imperfect shots—some are even out of focus and others are slightly off-kilter–and left out. Second, the work is focused on everyday people and situations, allowing the viewer not to be distracted by famous faces and pretty places. Third, I really struggled with editing and sequencing my own work and turned repeatedly to The Americans more than any other book as inspiration for how to do it well.
Growing up in the US, what were your perceptions and ideas of Vietnam as you learned about it through a Western lens?
The truth is I didn’t think much about Vietnam while growing up. Of course I knew that I was factually from Vietnam, but I was in a predominantly white community and Vietnam was just not a focus of conversation or personal interest. I was an adolescent when popular Hollywood Vietnam War movies like Platoon and Full Metal Jacket came out and they did pique my interest, but the gaze in those movies is firmly on the Americans. Thus, my very narrow perception of Vietnam was that it was the location of a tragic war.
How did these perceptions and ideas shift as you studied Vietnamese history from a Vietnamese perspective with Hue-Tam Ho Tai?
College was an incredibly eye opening experience on many levels. Socially, I met people from all walks of life, including other Vietnamese students who introduced me to Vietnamese culture. Academically, as you mentioned, I had the opportunity to study under Hue Tam Ho Tai, one of the few tenured Vietnamese professors in the United States at the time. As a history professor, she of course taught an obligatory course on the war, but she also taught about the entirety of Vietnamese history, as well as Chinese-Vietnamese relations. Over thousands of years, the American War in the 1960s and 1970s is just a very small part of the overall story.
In 1993, you returned to Vietnam after (18) years (first leaving when you were 3), what were your thoughts of Vietnam when you entered the city of Saigon?
This was prior to the normalization of political relations between the United States and Vietnam, so one of the only ways I could visit for an extended period of time was as a foreign student in Hanoi. During that trip, I took a bus trip with the other foreign students to Saigon. I distinctly remember standing in the open doorway of the mini bus. It was that magical time of day near sunset when everything glows and the shadows are long. I was quiet and I had some inexplicable feelings crescendo inside of me, feelings that I didn’t feel anywhere else in the country.
I took my camera, tripod and a lot of film with me to Vietnam. I loved the process of documentary photography, but I had no greater ambition or vision of what that could or would ultimately become. A camera gives you permission to stare at people and engage with them in a way that you otherwise are not socially permitted to do. In short, I just wanted to capture for myself what I saw and experienced first-hand.
When I returned to the states, I developed the film and made contact sheets. I developed a dozen or more of the photos that jumped off the contact sheets. I knew I had captured something special and I tried to get some publishers interested, but was unsuccessful, stopped trying, and got busy with a lot of other things in my life.
It was not until many years later that I thought of revisiting those images and really doing something with them. And by this time, of course, the country had changed dramatically in terms of economic development from what I had captured.
How did your dual perceptions of Vietnam affect how you approached this project?
The project aspect of this did not come into focus until the last few years. Revisiting those images and finding treasures that I previously overlooked was at first a personal curiosity. My children were getting older, so I had more time on my hands, and I was having more mid-life thoughts and feelings about my background and identity. Going back to Vietnam through these images brought up a lot of unprocessed feelings.
At this time, I ran across a Kuzuo Ishiguro quote about being a Japanese person in England and growing up to be an English-language author and it was one of the eventual inspirations for the title of my book: “There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” And I thought that captured something I hadn’t been able to put my finger on: yes, there was another life that I might have had, but yes, I am having this one—and I can be at peace with that.
Whether about yourself, your country of birth, or the medium of photography, what are some lessons you discovered through this project?
Wow, I’ve had a lot of lessons in all of the above. This project helped guide me to a greater feeling of being Vietnamese. As an adoptee, I have at times felt like I wasn’t authentically Vietnamese—I don’t have a Vietnamese name, a Vietnamese family, the Vietnamese language or culture—and I loved what Viet Thanh Nguyen told Phuc Tran when he expressed something similar in an interview: why are you allowing others to be gatekeepers and judges on authentic Vietnamese-ness? I expected the project to connect me more with the artistic and photographic communities—and it has—but I didn’t expect the greater connectivity to the Vietnamese and broader Asian community, which has been a pleasant surprise. Prior to publishing the book, I never felt comfortable using my Vietnamese name (Đỗ Văn Hùng), but I now recognize it too is a part of who I am. Post-COVID, I want to go back to Vietnam again given that I have re-connected with family there and my wife and children have never been.
Are there any particular moments or stories from this project that have stayed with you?
Related to the above, I of course have appreciated the professional recognition and awards that I have received, but what I have been most touched by are the reactions of Vietnamese-Americans. For the older ones, most fled as boat people and they left with nothing, so looking at my book brings many to tears with memories of their childhoods. For their children with no memory of Vietnam, it has served as a bridge between them and their parents to better understand the country they left behind.
Are there any long-term personal projects you’re hoping to explore or are currently working on?
A work in progress is about Vietnamese-American boatpeople and their adjustment to life in America as refugees. The work comes from the time I taught English as a Foreign Language in the Vietnamese community and it was my first exposure to their lives. Ideally, I would like to pair the photographs with essays from people who lived that experience.
If you had to start all over again, what advice would you give yourself?
First, as I mentioned earlier, I sent my work out to several publishers and got rejected by all of them. I took it as a rejection that my work wasn’t good enough. My older self would tell my younger self not to take the rejection as the end. I now know that many photographers self-publish for many reasons, including the ability to have complete editorial control. Most publishers are in it to run a business and make money and that’s usually the last thing on the artist’s mind. Second, if the body of work is really strong, you will find the audience for it.
Would you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
I strongly believe that the best training for a photographer is to take a lot of photographs and to find a mentor. Henri Cartier-Bresson famously said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” and it is so true! A mentor is critical because it is hard to self-critique and he or she will push you further than you might otherwise be able to go on your own. At Harvard, Chris Killip (UK) served as that type of mentor for me.
Thank you to all of our reader’s that are contributing to the community. We at Asia Photo Review really enjoy seeing the little snippets of life that are captured through your eyes. For this post of Reader’s Gallery we get to take a look at life in Cambodia, Hong Kong, and India.
A graduate of International Relations and a photographer from Canada, Katherine is passionate about protecting our planet and the people living on it. Having witnessed both the incredible devastation and resilience of humanity throughout her travels to over 30 countries, she is driven to share the stories of our world through the universal language of visual storytelling. As a member of the National Press Photographers Association and a Photography Project Manager for an environmental journalism organization, she will be spending the next year based in East Asia with a focus on the geopolitical, environmental, and human stories from this region.
Five years after the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, protests have once again gripped the city of Hong Kong in the semi-autonomous region’s largest and longest ongoing movement. Initially sparked by an extradition bill that would have permitted the extradition of criminals in Hong Kong for trial in mainland China, the bill has since been withdrawn. However, the deeper roots of the movement can also be traced back to fears of disappearing human rights and democratic freedoms, a historical sense of cultural separation from mainland China, and uncertainty for what will happen in 2047 (the official expiration date of One Country, Two Systems).
Since the start of the protests on June 9th, the movement has drastically evolved on a week-to-week basis. With what began originally as a peaceful movement, an increasing number of violent clashes between the protestors and armed forces has since led to more than 2,000 arrests, the entire shutdown of the local MTR transportation system, and over 150 petrol bombs thrown. With an end to the protests yet to be seen, the situation continues to remain unstable and the future uncertain. However, what is clear is that Hong Kong as we know it has been permanently transformed.
I’ve worked with several organisations as full time & freelance photographer. Presently I am based in New Delhi, India & wiling to travel anywhere for assignments
Time seems to be standing still as the world is battling with Covid-19. The nationwide lockdown was announced in India on 24th March 2020. Generally, we were never homebound till we turn old, but this pandemic left no choice and “Stay Home Stay Safe” became the new normal.
I have been living in the same neighbourhood of Mehrauli, Delhi from past 13 years. I only had the joy of spending time on the roof of my building in early days when it was almost a ritual for any kid to go to their roof just to gaze around and to fly kites. Since lockdown was announced, I decided to spend my evenings on roof.
In the beginning, coming out to the roof was just an escape from four walls of ‘home’. While news about lockdown was creating panic all around the world, my gaze followed a different direction. I noticed that coming to the roof was not just an escape for people; but eventually it started to becoming a routine.
Staying in a city where people are often strangers, I wondered when and how life got so busy? Standing on my roof I noticed different lives. Some were scared while some were playful, some were sad but some grateful. I witnessed different kinds of people. One’s under different roofs but all united with hope.
Coming to the roof for 40 days gave me an insight to observe the surroundings and see the new yet unfamiliar pattern in the ordinary life of neighbors. Every shot I have taken during this time is a gentle reminder that with this coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe, everything we do and everything we see has changed, if only for now.
“Home & Neighborhood are one of the places where we learn the most and it’s a great phenomenon to watch your surroundings change in a certain way and yet remain the same another way.”
Rooftop gave a limited yet an added perspective sneaking into the life of people who are quarantined. In this evening, pursuit of creating pictures gave me an inspiration to involve into the situation in my own way and do my part in this very own battle that mankind is facing with the virus.
There are a different kind of vibes floating around. We have never faced it and we were never prepared for it. And now, when this has become the reality, let’s hope for a better tomorrow in which we come out of this as a responsible and conscious citizen.
Finding the right words buried under two and a half decades of assimilation proved to be difficult. Perhaps it was my accent, my child-like vocabulary, or maybe everything about me was foreign to this place I thought of as home.
Being in Ho Chi Minh city after 11 years since my last visit feels different yet the same. The skyline has given birth to more towers seeking to touch the sun. Wealth has found itself in the pockets of the Vietnamese people yet has forgotten many others. Even with these progressions, much of the city has stayed the same. It’s inhabitants working day by day, to live, to provide for the future. Street vendors beginning their work before the sun wakes or never having stopped to begin with. Construction workers laboring under a feverish heat, finding solace in the brief moments of wind and rain. Citizens working well into old age, doing work meant for much younger bodies.
This place is rich in its traditions and superstitions. People having muted conversations with those that have long left the world. Hands clasped, with pulsating ember, the hopeful pray. Wishing for health, wealth, and whatever might be. I see a country with hope, hope for a future that’s better than what most experienced in the past. The hardships, turmoil, and labor that bled into the soil that grows bounty. It’s a country in search of identity and ownership, both of which have been unknown.
Kids: “Taking pictures mister?”
Kids: “Then take a picture of us!”
Health Care issue – Indian Women and Children of Rural and Financial Backward areas
Ranita Roy was born in Andul, a small town near Kolkata, India. She is a documentary photographer and visual artist.
She completed Hostile environment awareness training (HEAT) at Jakarta, nominated by Thomson Reuters (2020). Whose work has been published in various media publications including Reuters, The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times, The Caravan magazine, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The National (UAE), DW News, The Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Feature Shoot, BBC.
In 2019 Ranita joined Reuters as a freelance photojournalist and also joined WaterAid India as an Empanelled Photographer in 2020. She has worked on numerous personal projects including Old Age Happiness, Sleep Paralysis (Research work)), Flood and cyclone-affected areas, Child Labor, Health care issues, Animal rights, and many more. She has won numerous scholarships including the Scholarship from NOOR Images, Timothy Allen Photography Scholarship 2018, and VII Academy (2019). Her work has been recognized numerous times including by UNESCO (Climate change). She received the 7th National Photography Award (India), an Honorable Mention in Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award and she was a top 10 finalist of the International Women Photographer Award 2017. in 2019 she bagged a fellowship from WaterAid India. She is currently a 2020 Women Photograph mentorship program mentee.
Ranita completed a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Asutosh College (Kolkata). She has also gained advanced knowledge in narrative photography from New Directions by Sohrab Hura (Magnum photos Photographer), and National Geographic Photo Camp (Kolkata)2018. In 2019, she attended the 7th annual New York Portfolio Review organized by The New York Times in New York.
In spite of India’s name for respecting women, history tells that women were mistreated or neglected in varied spheres of life across religions, regions, and communities. The Indian society is obsessed with a male child, and hence, women are often forced to get pregnant for want of a son. Even though everyone is aware of a woman’s nutritional needs during pregnancy, it is not meted out to them, a very irresponsible attitude shown by their husbands and family members, and numerous pregnancies, abortions even in case of female child and closely spaced births, adds to deteriorating health and nutritional status. Men are found very casual and they don’t even bother about their wife’s or child’s health. It is also observed that the dietary intake of rural pregnant women was lower than the recommended level. The desired support from family and their husband is always missing. Usually, low weight infants are born to mothers with under nutrition and poor health. The incidence of anemia was found to be highest among lactating women followed by pregnant women and adolescent girls. Unawareness on health care and negligence from their husband during pregnancy results in negative outcomes for both the mother and the child. Even men never show interest to take mother and the child to the health centre. People from health centre, either visit their home for treatment on a regular interval or they take them to the health centre. As a society, we need to actively work towards providing our women with good health because a healthy woman ensures a healthy family. Women are not the weaker sex; society has made them so. We need more awareness drives, camps that educate rural women on the issues mentioned above, campaigns and projects that will help change mindsets and help save our women!
I was born in France in the ‘80s from a Laotian father and a Vietnamese mother. I am a self-taught photographer, photography is my mode of self-expression. I started my photographic work in 2010, with my series “Rooted”: an introspective journey through Laos in search of my very own roots. My whole artistic work is intimately linked to my life, to what resonates deeply in myself, to the quest for identity and humanity.
It was in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, that I met Bo and Chimmy for the first time. Very quickly we developed a relationship of trust and sincere friendship. Bo and Chimmy are “kathoeys”. Together, they overcome the hardships of life that we endure when we are different and rejected. This series of black and white photos recount their life, their loneliness, their suffering, their vulnerability, and reveals their dignity, their sensitivity, their deep humanity.
Uninvited Dreams of a Bitter Response
Ritam Talukdar, is a freelance photojournalist and a story teller. Through various visual narratives, he uses while depicting the daily emotions of people. After having worked as a product photographer and children’s photographer, he developed a strong passion to find out the day to day happenings of life all around in the form of stories. He left his job and got into this wide creative field to document the daily emotions and expressions that build up a life and document the news of lost cultures to the outside world.
Apart from being a photographer, he keeps a keen interest in the field of Performance Art and has till now participated in three International Artist Residency Programs held within India. He has been featured in The Edge of Humanity Magazine, Kiosk of Democracy, Frame Press Magazine, F Stop Magazine, SDN, Spazio Fotocopia and Zeke and he did his group exhibitions regarding his photography and Digital Arts in Germany, Venice, UK, USA, Romania, Turkey etc.
The considerable change of situation in terms of the season getting colder and having shorter days is like experiencing the same seasonal patterns of major dejected episodes during a specific time of a year. The static resonance of the conscious effort to maintain a significantly jovial mood is dampened at every turn when the winter makes its mark. It’s a strange phenomenon that occurs in conjunction with changes in the season, especially during the arrival of the chilly winds. My love for this season have always been a priority, but I have always managed to extend my effort to explore the emptiness that the surrounding has to offer, resembling a part of the deserted feeling that I familiarise with. I photographed the hollowed resonance that rules the milieu, experienced by a depressed person, in terms of the landscapes and the habitants, amidst the mist that clouds your existence.
Winter generally stands for the time of carnivals, holidays; get together parties with reunions of families and close ones, but for most of the Winter, I was away from home. The feeling of staying within a packed up routine of work, often made me sum up the expressions together to give rise to an emotion that cannot stay hidden away from the general opinion of human agony. Moving far away from the urban cultures of the cityscapes, these subtle emotions are clearly visible and the solidarity can be felt more beautifully. As we embrace the gloomy presence in full glory and the tired eyes only make an attempt to regain the their consciousness with much ingratitude.
This particular attempt to bring in an emotional set of imagery comparing them with the misty landscapes, trying to depict the unsaid sadness was almost like experiencing a reverse nightmare staying as a prisoner trapped within his personal history. This is indeed something more that one can comply with.
With the unknown, our mind fills in the information gaps while we seek out what we believe to be true. There is beauty in that mystery and need of resolution. The sensation of the unknown is familiar to photographers. The need for exploration and resolution, whether within the world on within our minds. It is a familiar feeling for photographer Zhou Hanshan. In this interview, we discuss his career, path to photography, and the frenetic unknown when compared to the stagnation of the familiar.
What were some of your early experiences with photography? Did you know in those moments that photography would be your career?
My first contact with photography was during my early teens, when I played with my father’s Minolta Super SRT. When I went onto art school, I chose to major in photography during my final year at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
I kind of knew early in life that I wanted to do something that revolves around “art”. But later on, I realised that making a decent living with fine art would be terribly difficult, especially in a tiny country like Singapore. That’s why I enrolled in the graphic design programme in art school, instead of fine arts. I took up photography “seriously” when I was in art school, while studying graphic design. Back then, photography was taught through the design programme, and not in the fine arts programme. In the 2nd year of the 3 year course, I decided that I would do photography as a major. So I guess that’s when I decided that it was something that I wanted to do. But interestingly enough, after graduation, I went to work in the advertising industry as an Art Director, instead of being a “Professional” Photographer. I guess that I would rather work on personal projects and photograph on my own terms, instead of someone else’s. Being in the creative industry also allows me to see various forms of photography. But having to work full-time means that photography actually took the backseat, until around 2010. While I was getting recognition for my advertising work, somehow, I realised that something was missing in my life. That was when I started to photograph “seriously” again, and have been working on my personal projects again and getting my work exhibited ever since.
Whether through formal education or self-taught, how did you develop your style as a photographer? Are there any photographers that influence you in particular?
There are lots of photographers whom I admire. Example: Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Daido Moriyama, Henri Cartier Bresson, Masahisa Fukase, Josef Koudelka, just to name a few. These are photographers who did things their own way, with their unique vision, without being influenced by what the majority of the work during their time. I think that’s important for creators. To do our own thing. Even if it might not be widely accepted. To be safe is to be boring. Although I went to art school and majored in photography, I don’t really like to restrict myself to a particular style of photographing. But I do prefer to create work in B&W though.
Please tell me more about your upcoming book Frenetic City. How did you find yourself in Hong Kong and how did you go about starting this project?
I lived in Hong Kong from 2014-2017. When I first landed in 2014, I was quite overwhelmed by the intensity of the crowded streets and the chaotic nature of it. Frenetic City was a photographic reaction to it. I wanted to create the feeling that I felt in the photographs. I am currently crowd funding on Kickstarter to publish Frenetic City into a book. My first monograph. The campaign ends on 30th May 2020.
What can you tell me about your time photographing Hong Kong? What are some things you learned about the people and the city as you worked on the project?
Hong Kong is a very dynamic and energetic city. Coming from Singapore, I must say that I do miss its energy sometimes. It’s also a very “photograph-able” city. When I first arrived, I was quite overwhelmed by the chaotic and stressful environment, especially the crowded streets. Compared to other cities, Hong Kong for me feels much more intense. While Singapore is also a busy city, the pace of life here is somewhat less “hurried.” An example would be that I can easily sit at a cafe for an hour or two, while in Hong Kong, the bill would come as soon as I was almost done with my food. In general, I think Hong Kongers are trying really hard to make ends meet (given the astronomical price of property there).
Being born and raised in Singapore, what is it like to photograph people native to your country compared to the projects you take on abroad?
Being born and having spent most of my life in Singapore, it can be quite “difficult” to find inspiration to photograph here. Having said that, I am currently working on a project that explores life and landscapes along the edge of this island-state. Somehow, I find myself much more productive when I am working on projects abroad or based on other cities. Maybe it’s the initial freshness that comes with visiting or living in a new environment.
As a creative, what is the importance of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone? Do you notice a difference in the quality of your photographs when you’re comfortable versus when pushing yourself?
I think it is very important to push myself to experiment or try new ways of photographing. I’m not exactly a fan of having a particular style of photographing. For me, it depends on the project that I am working on. Some projects that are more “documentary”, then I would employ a more documentary way of working. If it’s more “conceptual”, then I would use a more conceptual way of creating the work. So in that sense, when I look back at the resulting work, I do see a difference. Some work might look aesthetically “nicer”, while others might look more like snapshots.
If you had to start all over again, what advice would you give yourself?
If I could advise my early self, I would tell myself to start working on my personal projects much earlier on in life and not get tied down by the constant pressures or worries of making a living.
Would you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Create work that is important to yourself and not get influence by style. Ultimately, photography, like all art forms, is about what you are trying to say or the work that you are portraying.