In order to see how far I can stretch my creativity, a half-year ago I decided to shoot within a very strict dedicated set of constraints. I bought an old 1990s Contax t-2 film camera and endured to only shoot with tri-x 400 film. At that point in time, I had never shot with film before, but I was feeling inspired by the people around me and wanted to go in a new direction. I didn't know it then, but I think I wanted to start taking things more seriously; considering every frame composed, waiting until that 'decisive moment' or whatever the hell that meant.
I'm not quite sure at exactly when, but also at that time I had come across an old issue of National Geographic at a local flea market one day with an article by David Allen Harvey and his accompanying images of Havanna, Cuba. The sun cast low on brown cobblestone avenues washed in pastel built by conquistadores, a young boy learning how to ride his first horse on a hill next to the handsome ruins of a Spanish mission, a taciturn jalopy resting under the shade of a fruit tree all silhouetted by that big beautiful blue ocean. His images were brilliant, beautiful, poignant, stirring, and exactly what I thought that "National Geographic look" should be. Somehow... if I had ever see Trinidad in person, I don't think it will ever look as good as it does in his photos.
More than a year and a half ago, I moved into an old apartment overlooking the southeastern portion of the city in a district called Jiu Yan Qiao, or "Nine Eyes Bridge." Since I'm located on the top floor, I can see the parts of the river flowing past Sichuan University, and have a clear view of the Sichuanese Music Conservatory next door as well. At different times of the day opera and Erhu music mix together, rise on the wind, a float into my garden. Once in a great while, I think can hear samba music as well.
The other day I took a cab and, as usual, the driver started making small talk. "Where are you from? How long have you been in China?" His pack of Double Happiness smokes placed within reach of the steering wheel, a ruddy bottle of home-brewed tea reclining on the center console near the stick shift. Driving on by the continuous construction site on Kehua south road, past people panting on their Mobikes sweating through shirts in eighty degrees plus heat, I chimed in half-heartedly and was too self-absorbed to put any real effort into the conversation. Before stepping out, his last remark was 'You look young! Get yourself a Chinese wife and settle down somewhere. It doesn't matter where you land, just find yourself someone sexy that can stand being around you for more than a minute and everything else will be ok.'
If you're not in a major city like Beijing or Shanghai, hopping in a cab is relatively cheap; costing the equivalent of three or four dollars to get half-way across the city. Taxi drivers in China, especially Sichuan, act as mobile psychiatrists and always seem to offer up nuggets of hard-earned wisdom at some point during the ride. They are referred to as Lao Siji (老司机) and If someone happens to call you a Lao Siji, they are hinting that you know too much for your own good or you know how to flirt. 我被老司机带坏了
Though I've lived almost five years in Chengdu, I can hardly say I know the city well. With China's current growth rate, every district is expanding and changing its skin like a molting snake, its scales being hauled off at midnight by vast lines of dump trucks receding into the hazy grey distance while dancing to the clack of mahjong tiles. It seems that every two months I can't even recognize the landscape out of my front door. The slogans say 'Modern buildings for modern people.' I suppose as a street photographer, this is exactly what I want: a new palate to work with, a fresh scene, something electric. Although the best about Chengdu is that no matter how fast it tries to reinvent itself, It never really changes, the oil is still there under the new shiny dirt.