Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Faces of China Photographic Exhibition Now Online

I’ve been hearing from some of my friends and colleagues that they’ve been unable to see my Faces of China exhibit currently hanging at the Archbishop Curley Notre Dame Gallery of Art, which opened earlier this month, and closes January 21, 2012. Their work or personal schedules have interfered, and some aren’t from the Miami area and won’t have the opportunity to visit.

Faces of China slide show runs just two minutes ... iPhone & iPad version.

So I decided to set up an on-line version of the 38 image exhibit, viewable right here in your web browser. Each image is on screen for just three seconds, so the entire show will take barely two minutes of your time, 30 seconds more if you read the shortened artist’s statement at the end.

For the show’s opening November 5, I mixed a 20 minute audio track of field-recorded natural sound from my trips to China, which played in the background, giving visitors an extra dimension of understanding to the photographs.

This on-line edition of the exhibit is accompanied by a brand new sound track of a guzheng, a multi-stringed Chinese instrument that is plucked, which I recorded at the Buddha Zen Hotel in Chengdu on my last night in China in October. A very peaceful waterfall accompanied the lovely young lady who was performing that evening.

Six images from Tibet are included, shot just two weeks before exhibit opened.

In September I wrote about the then upcoming Faces of China exhibit, and I’ll take the liberty of reprinting my artist’s statement here:
Visiting China as a photographer for the first time was very intimidating. With a population of 1.3 billion and one of the planet’s most ancient cultures, I worried that my images would not contribute anything new. How could I tell the story of the political transformation since Liberation in 1949, the legacy of the Cultural Revolution, and an economy that’s moved hundreds of millions of rural peasants to the cities and transformed the nation into world power?
I decided to meet China’s people one at a time, capture a tiny bit of that nation’s character one photograph at a time. I went into the streets and markets and temples with no particular agenda other than to see the relaxed and candid side of people from a culture very different from my own.

After seven trips to China I present here no insights into their political, economic and environmental challenges. I simply try to look into a pair of eyes just like mine, accept them for who they are at that moment, make a connection that I can digitize, take home and share. These Faces of China are fleeting glimpses of people that are like you and me, people who are trying to live their lives to the fullest, plan for the future, contribute to their community. And sometimes they sneak a peek at an unusual Western visitor with a camera.

My technique to capture these photographs is very basic: I show my subjects respect, smile, indicate an interest with body language, and treat them as I would want to be treated. I say hello in badly mispronounced Mandarin, “ni hao” throughout China, “sain baina uu” in Inner Mongolia, and in traditional Tibetan regions of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai, “tashi dele” brings out the smiles.

Captions accompany maps with featured Chinese province.

For more examples of field-recorded natural sound combined with photography, please visit my multimedia portfolio site. More examples of journalistic photography from China can be viewed at my Miami corporate photography site.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sounds Overheard: Tibetan Lute Melody And Song

Musical detail from Buddhist temple wall painting, Reting Monastery, Tibet.

The singer's soulful voice cut through the noisy traffic, his fingers racing over the strings of his lute-like instrument while pilgrims flowed through the gates of the Dreprung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa.

His voice was rather raspy, yet melodic, and blended well with the tune he produced from his worn dramyin, a traditional Himalayan folk music lute common in Tibet.  Sitting cross legged on the ground, he was accepting offerings of small Chinese currency, many Fen, worth a couple of pennies each, with a few one and five Yuan notes in his collection box, valued at a couple of dimes.

Listen to natural sound recording of street performer singing folk song and playing a seven stringed dramyin. 1 minute 23 seconds. 

Last month while traveling in Tibet I encountered several such minstrels, who carry on the Tibetan tradition of oral story telling through song, with dramyins often accompanying their narratives. While in the field I simply enjoyed the music and ambiance of the the ancient temple setting, but upon my return Wikipedia's technical description of the Tibetan lute helped explain what I was hearing.

The dramyin is a long-necked, double-waisted and fretless lute. It is usually hollowed out of a single piece of wood and can vary in size from 60 cm to 120 cm in length (2 to 4 feet). Unlike a contemporary guitar, the dramyin does not have a round sound hole in the wooden sounding board but rather a rosette-shaped ones like a lute. Of its seven strings, only six continue to the pegbox. The seven strings occur in two double courses, and one triple course.

The triple course of the dramyin typically contains the half string on the left, which is usually tuned an octave above the middle unison strings. One of the other two courses are typically tuned an octave apart. The courses are normally plucked in unison during playing. Typically a single note is played at a time, making for melodic music and not harmony. 
During my assignments and travels I've been recording the sounds I overhear, and many don't have supporting photographs or stories. This occasional series will be my excuse to share my audio orphans, these Sounds Overheard.  More examples of journalistic photography from China can be viewed at my Miami corporate photography site.