First of all, a word of thanks to all the folks who braved the torrential rain last Friday to attend my talk at the beautiful twocities gallery. I myself was caught in the downpour on the way over but the photo boards came in handy for shelter!
Special thanks to Eva, Chelsea and their wonderful staff for hosting me. Eva was a most excellant interviewer and I’m sure many twocities visitors will miss her when she leaves.
The Roving Exhibit started off as a curious experiment – taking street photography back to the streets in the form of show and tell. At the end of the day, the Roving Exhibit could not have been anything without its array of colorful street patrons – local residents, street sweepers, construction workers and street hawkers – that largely made up my audience.
Ahhh, what stories I have (and shared) and the various shapes and sizes they embody. So here I present to you, a snapshot of my average patron:
The art critic: When I first started out, a woman selling socks on the side of the street had bluntly told me to improve my photograhy skills. No, I’m not joking. Like her, I’ve had a few who spent more time telling me how to improve my work than looking at the photos.
Feedback has ranged from the friendly, useful and some bordered on plain old criticism. Some have been very useful, such as adding headings and context to the photos. Others preferred more color than black and white. Some had issues with the composition, framing, depth of field and more. I get it, it’s a rather Chinese way of expressing care which I am familiar, and I’ve taken all of them in stride. Rarely do critics border on being hostile. Disinterest is your greatest fear.
The logistics guy: They have a million questions, not about the photos or exhibit but the set up. How much is your camera? What lens do you use? Do you know how much XX lens costs? How much do you earn? How much are these boards? (Proceed to finger and poke the board).
The docent: God love them. They are usually locals with a lot of free time and a love for attention. Once they grasp the concept and details, they’d take over with show and tell, often in Shanghainese. They’d draw crowds with their booming voices and large gestures and sometimes add a bit of their own narrative along the way. Rarely does the docent register my presence, it’s about them and their thoughts on someone else’s platform. I take what I can and appreciate them for their enthusiasm.
The archivist: My favorite. They are almost all older local residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. One was a retired civil servant of the local housing co-opt in Hongkou. He gave me an exhaustive list of places I should visit before they were completely demolished, and even gave me his contact number for follow up. Through their their wisedom, I learned a great deal of the various types of housing that used to pepper the old districts that no longer exist and the history of neighborhoods long past. I love that the photos gave them a platform to share their memories and intricate knowledge of the city. They have a firm finger on the pulse of old Shanghai, and are invaluable contributions to its living history.
The Roving Exhibit isn’t over though the sticky summer heat may be a bit of a challenge. If you want to sell lemonade alongside me to draw crowds, let’s talk. Enjoy the video if you haven’t already!