Behind the Camera: 蜕(Tui) on the relationship between the city and street photography

Tui01

 蜕(Tui) is a Shanghai-based street photographer and one of the many contributors of the Chinese street photo blog Zaijietou (在街头 or ‘in the streets’). His work, shot exclusively on film, is strongly emotive and instinctive which result in arresting, haunting and moody images. Tui talks about his relationship with Shanghai and how the city has influenced his work, his dedication to film and his views on street photography in China.

Websites: 4oto.com (Personal) zaijietou.com (Group blog)

SA: Tell us a little about yourself, you say you are not from Shanghai but lived here a long time? Do you consider the city home?

跟我们简单介绍下你自己, 你说你不是上海人呆了上海多久? 在你的心目中,你会觉得上海是你的第二故乡吗?

蜕(Tui) : 我生于重庆,六岁时随父母来到了上海,从此定居于这座城市,理论上应该就是上海人了,可是我至今仍然不能流利的说上海话,我觉得对于一个地方方言的主动学习或抗拒,代表着你内心对那个地方的接受程度有多少。所以在我心里很难用第二故乡来看待她,始终没有归属感。对于这座城市,内心的感情是复杂的,抵触和溶入的心态并存,毕竟生活了几十年,就算再没有归属感,也不可避免的在无形中被这座城市深刻影响着。对于我与这座城市的关系说那么多,是因为我觉得我这种复杂矛盾的心理,与我所拍的这座城市的照片是息息相关的。

I was born in Chongqing and was six when my parents moved to Shanghai where we’ve lived every since. I suppose I can be considered Shanghainese but till today, I still cannot speak the Shanghainese dialect fluently. I feel one’s resistance to learning the dialect reflects the extent of how accepts a city (as a home). So in my heart, it is hard to view Shanghai as my adopted home as I ultimately lack that sense of belonging. My feelings toward the city are complicated: resistant yet embracing at the same time. After all, I’ve lived here for years, even if I’ve no sense of belonging here, I cannot avoid the inevitable and profound impact the city has on me. The reason why I speak at length about my relationship with the city is because it has much to do with my photography. I feel that my state of mind impacts the way I photograph the city.

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SA: What motivated you to turn to street photography and how would you describe your style?

是什么样的际遇让你走进街拍? 对于你的摄影风格,你自己怎么形容?

蜕(Tui): 说到这个问题,我要感谢被很多人轻视的LOMO,它让我重新拿起了相机,并最终走上了街头。很多年以前我喜欢拍摄废弃工厂里那些沉睡了的巨大的钢铁怪物,可是有一天忽然不想再拍那些了,甚至不想再拍照片了,然后放下数码相机,之后2年没有再拍过一张照片。直到06年时,我女友拿着LOMO相机拍胶片玩,我好奇的也拍了一卷,并尝试用她的方式在街头随意拍些人或物,那之后开始喜欢上了街拍这种拍照方式,也喜欢上了胶片。

I have to thank the Lomo (mass produced Russian film camera, see lomography), which many photographs have turned their noses at, for guiding me into the streets. Many years ago, I liked to shoot dormant and massive steel structures in abandoned factories . But one day, I suddenly decided I no longer wanted to shoot them, or at all for that matter. After I put down my digital camera, I stopped photography for two years. Until 2006, my girlfriend was shooting a Lomo film camera for fun, and I was curious enough to shoot an entire roll, using her style of shooting people or things in the streets at random. Since then, I fell in love with both street style and film.

对于我现在照片的风格,我也不知如何去形容,我心里有个模糊的轮廓,可是我无法用文字清楚的表达出来,而且我认为我现在只有一些能称为风格的雏形,心里依然有很多的困惑,有些困惑被自己反复提出,一段时期的思考有了答案,可是过些日子又会否决掉原来的结论,如此反复,有时却又会想着“简单的去拍就好了,想那么多干嘛”。

With regards to my style, I can’t quite describe it. There is this faint silhouette in my head but I cannot express it clearly in words. I think my style is still not yet fully formed. It frustrates me that I keep thinking and refuting my ideas. And then sometimes I would think “Just go ahead and shoot, why think so much?”

不过,虽然我无法给你一个关于风格的明确答案,但是我可以说一点我与很多街拍照片的不同之处,那就是我越来越清楚的认识到,我不是在记录现实,我是在虚构现实,是在虚构一座城市。我并不是一开始就意识到这一点的,是在拍了许多照片后,有一天有人对我说“这不是上海”,这让我开始怀疑自己这些照片的真实性,以至于开始思考照片这件事物存在的意义。那段时间非常的困惑,但这些困惑和带来的思考是有益的,这个过程是一个自我反省的过程,它让我更加清楚的认识了自己,也让我更加清楚的认识了自己的照片。我认为这对我照片内容和风格的走向是非常重要的。

Although I may not be able to answer definitively on my photographic style, I can distinguish my photos from other street photographers. I am increasingly aware that I am not recording reality but rather a fictional reality in a fictional city. I did not realize this at first but only after many photos later. Someone said to me (of my photos) one day that “this isn’t Shanghai”, making me doubt how realistic my work was, and begin to contemplate the real meaning of what I photograph. That was a puzzling period but the confusion was useful to self-reflect and better understand my work. I think this is important in helping me define my content and style.

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SA: Do you feel shooting in the streets of Shanghai is different from any other Chinese city?

在你看来,在上海街拍和在中国其他城市街拍有什么不同?

蜕(Tui): 在中国不同的城市街头拍照,被拍摄对象的反应是不一样的,在上海这样的大城市里,即便你释放出足够的善意,大多情况下成年的被拍摄者都会谢绝被拍,未经同意的拍摄则会招来怒视甚至冲突,所以大多情况下我会采取盲拍的方式。而在中小型城市,这样的情况稍好点,在偏远的小城市就随意了许多,在一些少数民族的聚集地,人们会笑着面对你的镜头,有些笑容里会夹杂着羞涩,而有时一些人甚至会主动请你为他拍照。这些面对镜头的不同反应,是个有趣的现象,基本上文明程度越高经济越发达的地区,越倾向于抗拒面对镜头。

You solicit different reactions when photographing people in different cities in China. In large cities like Shanghai, no matter how good your intentions are, adults refuse to be photographed most of the time.  To do so anyway without consent can provoke glares and even conflict. So I tend to shoot blindly in most situations. It is a bit better in small and medium-sized cities and much easier in remote towns. In places where ethnic minorities live, people will smile as you point your lens, and while some will smile shyly at you, others will approach you to photograph them. These differing responses toward a camera are interesting. Basically, the more “civilized” or economically developed the region, the more resistant to being photographed by others.

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SA: You made a decision to switch completely to film at one point and also process the film yourself. There is something undeniably beautiful and raw about film, what is it that attracts you to film?

你现在已经基本决定用胶卷拍摄,并自己冲印照片。用胶卷确实可以拍出很多原始的美。是什么样的动力让你决定用胶卷拍摄?

蜕(Tui): 上个世纪末数码相机刚刚问世时,我很欣喜的发现能在按下快门后马上看到照片,于是我马上成了数码相机的使用者。可是时间长久之后却发现数码相机让我会产生浮躁感,我觉得这也是我04年到06年放弃拍照的原因之一。浮躁感,这是现代科技带来的通病吧,所以现在会有那么多人谈“回归”这个词。06年偶然机会开始使用胶片,发现使用胶片拍摄时心态变得很简单,专注在拍摄本身上,而不是急于求成的马上去看照片的好坏,这部分工作留在了整卷完成后再去做。虽然这样效率不如数码相机,但是我一直认为拍照对于我来说是一个修心的过程,而不是一项工作,工作是需要效率的,而修心却是需要时间的。这好比喝茶,你可以直接用泡一杯袋装茶,但也有人喜欢复杂的茶道。简单的说,用胶片的拍照方式,从拍片、冲洗到出片,整个过程给我带来的平静感和温和感是数码相机所无法给予的,这是我放弃数码使用胶片的直接原因。当然,胶片质感上的独特性,也是重要原因。

I was delighted to discover the instant gratification the digital camera offered when it first came out and became a quick convert. But as time wore on, I found myself growingly impetuous, which is one of the reasons why I stopped shooting from 2004-6. This is one of the ills of modern technology, which is why many people like to talk about “a return to simpler times”. When I began using film in 2006, I noticed a simpler state of mind which is focused on shooting itself, rather than the hurried gratification of checking the images (or CHIMPing – CHeck, IMage, Preview). That part is left to when the roll is finished. Although it is not efficient as a digital camera, I find that photography is the cultivation of the mind rather than a job. A job requires efficacy, but cultivating the mind requires time. It’s like drinking tea, you can easily use a tea bag but some people enjoy the intricacies of making the tea from scratch. Simply put, the process of using film, from shooting to developing, brings me calm and warmth that the digital camera can never offer. This is the main reason why I gave up shooting digital. Of course, the unique texture of film is also an important reason.

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SA: What camera and film do you carry out on a shoot?

通常你外出拍照,会带哪款相机/胶卷?

蜕(Tui): 平时总是随身携带着一款很小巧的口袋机,美能达TC-1。用这款相机近2年了,走在路上握着它,已经好像是自己右手的一部分。我不太喜欢频繁的换相机玩,因为新相机的陌生感会让我在拍照时心里不踏实。胶卷也一样,也是固定的用着ILFORD

HP5或者Lucky400,不过最近开始只使用柯达的电影胶片DX5222,因为它的迫冲(Push)性能更好而且价格低廉。

I usually have with me a small Minolta TC-1. I’ve had this for close to 2 years and walking in the streets, it’s like part of my right hand. I don’t like to frequently change cameras because new cameras have this alien feel which makes me uneasy. It’s the same with film, I always stick to Ilford Hp5 or Lucky 400. However, I’ve recently started using Kodak DX5222 because of its “push” ability (for high grain and contrast) and its lower prices.

SA: Can you talk more about your favorite photos? How did you find them and what was going through your head as you shot them?

你能详细介绍下你自己最喜欢的作品吗? 你在什么情况下拍的?在拍摄时,你有什么样的灵感/构思?

蜕(Tui): 我在拍照时很多情况是没有去多想什么的,很多画面一闪即逝,容不得思考后再拍,往往是直觉性的按下快门,而且由于经常是盲拍,就更谈不上构图了。比如上次您提过的那张腿部纹身的照片,这张我自己也很喜欢,当时他从我面前走过,步伐很快而且坚定,等我反应过来,他已经走出了一段距离,我追赶上去急速的边走着边伸手然后按下快门,象这样的情况时常发生,是无法事先思考的。当然,对于另外一些拍物的照片,则会让自己安静下来观察下对象然后再按下快门了,我喜欢在天桥上时往下看,所以我拍摄了一些这样俯拍的照片,有一张我印在了我自己的名片上,马路上的水痕和骑车闪过的人,我觉得这样从平凡中通过构图找出这座城市的不平凡之处,也是拍照的一大乐趣吧。

Often times, I don’t think too much when I am shooting. There are many fleeting images that are dictated by instinct rather than thought when I hit the shutter, and many are shot blindly rather than properly composed. For example, you mentioned liking the picture of the tattooed leg (see first photo), which is also a favourite of mine. That man was walking quickly but steadily past me. By the time I reacted, he had gone a fair distance. I chased after him, walking side by side while pressing the shutter. It’s hard to think too much under such circumstances. Of course, for other shots, I’ll quietly observe before shooting. I like shooting from above on a bridge, resulting in overhead images. There is a photo which is a blur of a water trails and a bicyclist, which I use on my namecard. I think that to be able discover the city’s extraordinary moments through the composition of trivial day to day objects, is one of the many joys of photography.

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SA: You mentioned that people have actually compared your style to Moriyama Daido’s 森山大道 black-white and high contrast style with an affinity for darker subjects. Yet you say you try not to study other people’s work lest they subconsciously influence your style. How would you respond to that?

你提过有人把你的照片风格跟Moriyama Daido’s 森山大道的黑白照做比较,拍摄黑暗中的物体. 但你也说过,你正在尝试树立自己的风格,而不受他人风格的影响。对此,你怎么解释呢?

蜕(Tui): 我觉得那是他没有好好看过森山大道的照片才这么说。略微相似的只是黑白影调上的高对比质感,这其实是因为都使用了迫冲(Push)导致的。至于照片内容本身,在镜头语言上是完全不同的,镜头语言才是最关键的不是么?我很少去看摄影画册,认真去看森山大道的影集也只是今年初的事,这还是因为几次被人说了风格象他的照片之后,决定买本他的书来看看到底哪象,当然结论是“真的不象”(笑)。以前我是个容易被别人影响的人,所以那时的我刻意不去看摄影画册什么的,虽然说模仿是进步的捷径,但我更愿意自己慢慢去找到自己的方式,毕竟拍照对于我来说不是职业,只是喜好,如我前面所说,是一个修心的过程,所以独自摸索出自己风格的那个过程,对于我来说是一个不可逾越的环节。

I don’t think he had properly examined Moriyama Daido’s work when he said that. Minor similarities lie in just the black and white tones and high contrast. This is a result of push (processing) film (which increases grain and contrast). With regards to the content, from the lens language, it is completely different. Isn’t’ the language of the lens most critical? I rarely look at photo books and only closely looked at Moriyama Daido’s work this year after I heard several people mention the similarity in styles. I bought his books to actually study for resemblances and of course, the conclusion is none at all (laugh). I used to be easily influenced by others so I purposely avoided looking at other people’s work. Although imitation is the shortcut to progress, I prefer to slowly find my own way. After all, photography is not a career for me, and just a hobby. Like I said before, it is just to cultivate my heart and mind. Hence, the process of finding one’s own style is something you cannot skip over.

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SA: Is the genre of street photography popular in China? Where do you think it is headed, in the sense that can street photography grow to properly reflect a unique part of China’s society?

在你看来,街拍现在在中国流行吗?你觉得街拍未来的走向如何,未来能多大程度反映中国社会?

蜕(Tui): 似乎不太好用“流行”这个词来形容。喜欢拍照的人多少都会尝试街拍吧,尤其当找不到其它拍摄主题时,就很容易选择街拍这种方式去拍照。真正多年坚持街拍的,还是少数人,过去是,现在是,我相信以后也是,但街拍有其独特的魅力和意义所在,所以这个人群肯定不会消失。如果从纪实的角度出发,,毫无疑问海量的街拍照片能反映现实社会的一个层面,但受制于街拍本身的局限性,往往街拍照片在“反映社会”这一点上会缺乏深度,而这部分工作需要交给新闻纪实摄影师们去完成了。另外,我不觉得街拍者必须肩负“反映社会”这个重任,虽然传统意义上似乎街拍属于纪实摄影这个范畴,也的确有相当数量的街拍者是以平视客观的眼光走上街头去拍摄照片的,但街拍并不是必须如此,拍摄者如果将浓厚的的个人情绪和观点加入到照片中,现实不可避免的会被扭曲,也就无法做到客观的“反映社会”了。

‘Popular’ isn’t really the right word to describe it. Those who like to photograph will at one point try street photography, especially if they cannot find any other subject to shoot, and will easily fall into this type of photography. But the number of people who do street photography for many years are few and far between – be it in the past, present or in the future.  But street photography has its special appeal so its significance to a core group of people will not be lost. If we’re looking from a documentarian point of view, there is no doubt that a mass of street photographers can reflect an aspect of our society, but it is ultimately limited to the streets. To actually be able to really show a reflection of society requires depth which street photography can lack, hence this job should really be completed by photo documentarians or journalists. Also, I don’t feel it is a street photographer’s job is to reflect society although traditionally, street photography does fall under the category of documentary photography and a considerable number of street photographers do set out with that objective in mind when they hit the streets. But street photography does not necessarily have to be about that. If the photography can infuse his or her emotions and perspective into the photo, reality is inevitably distorted.

Visit Behind the Camera Interview Series to learn more about the work of other photographers.

 

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7 Comments

  • Reply November 12, 2010

    budak

    why does he say his works are a ‘fictional reality?’ of a ‘fictional city’? Because of his use of high contrast B&W images?

  • Reply November 12, 2010

    席子(gropius)

    “在上海这样的大城市里,即便你释放出足够的善意,大多情况下成年的被拍摄者都会谢绝被拍,未经同意的拍摄则会招来怒视甚至冲突,所以大多情况下我会采取盲拍的方式。而在中小型城市,这样的情况稍好点,在偏远的小城市就随意了许多,在一些少数民族的聚集地,人们会笑着面对你的镜头,有些笑容里会夹杂着羞涩,而有时一些人甚至会主动请你为他拍照。这些面对镜头的不同反应,是个有趣的现象,基本上文明程度越高经济越发达的地区,越倾向于抗拒面对镜头。”

    ——————————————

    这点我并不认同,拍摄对象面对镜头的反应其实是面对拍摄者的反应,拍摄者如果微笑,通常被拍摄者也会报以微笑,至少不会抗拒你的镜头,这也是自己从摄影中学到的为人经验-仅供参考。

  • Reply November 14, 2010

    Woods

    Sue Anne, thanks for that great interview !
    — Woods

    PS: I suppose he meant “This is the main reason why I gave up on DIGITAL” (not film)

    • Reply November 15, 2010

      Sue Anne

      Thanks for spotting that, Woods! I’ve corrected it.

  • Reply November 16, 2010

    Katya

    Hey, thanks for discovering this photographer (for me, at least)! I find his work tasteful and his approach playful and clever. And I have nothing but respect for those who cultivate their minds while blindly shooting street scenes!

  • Reply January 10, 2011

    Alex

    Great interview Sue Anne, really enjoyed it!
    – Alex

    Btw, your link to his site (4oto.com), the html is wrong; it tries to take you to sueannetay.webfactional.com/www.4oto.com.

    • Reply January 11, 2011

      Sue Anne

      Thanks, Alex! i tried fixing but not sure why it keeps jumping to the dead link. Will try again!

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