Alone twice for the price of one
These photographs are a set of personal observations outlining places I’ve been and places where I want to be. The people appearing in these photographs are essentially proxies in my exploration of isolation and urbanity, and the universal concept of home. Over many years, I’ve wrestled against many demons, and in the present age of social media, the race to the most “looks, clicks, and likes” isn’t providing a healthy solution. Ultimately, what I dream is that a destination will offer some finality for the simple requirements of understanding and acceptance.
Detachment and atypicality have always been personal benchmarks carrying me from one location to the next. The privilege of living in Europe and South America have provided a palette of colour and flavour variations throughout my time as research scientist. Rationality and creativity always competed for supremacy, until I realized they could feasibly share the same stage. When I traveled around the world for a full year after leaving science behind, I hadn’t stopped running from research, from my birth-city, or from the person I had become. While running suggests an escape from something, running also implies there’s some endgame which is how writing and photography have helped shape my ongoing journey.
1 of 10. “The gulf of Georgia”
The installation, “A-maze-ing Laughter”, is apparently popular among Vancouver residents and visitors. While a solitary figure in the background sits bored, almost defiant, the open-mouthed laughter is a disturbingly appropriate metaphor to the old saying: “Vancouver is simply a view, waiting to become a city.” Her people don’t tolerate much dissent to the majority view, that beauty trumps dignity.
2 of 10. “Solter(r)a”
Much debate surrounds the ongoing gentrification of Chinatown, one of Vancouver’s oldest and historic neighbourhoods. The Solterra Group is building condominiums at this location. Senior Chinese have moved away, but who will live here, and what changes will they feel entitled to have? In Spanish, “sol”, “terra”, and “soltera” are respectively sun, earth, and single (unmarried) woman.
3 of 10. “Present-day relic”
In Berlin, an older man walks away from an advertisement for a museum exhibition about post (WW2) war life in 12 European countries. Is the gentleman German? Or is he from another European country? How has his life been affected by war? During the “Cold War”, Bornholmer Strasse was a border crossing between West and East Berlin, and one of the first places where the Berlin Wall opened in 1989. Was his life subsequently affected by a divided (and subsequently reunited) Germany?
4 of 10. “Good for Berlin”
Surrounded by glass, grand vertical spaces tower over the north and south entrances to Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). Large advertising banners often appear, and the Berliner Sparkasse (Savings Bank) proudly displays “Hauptstadt” (capital city) with the bank’s ‘S’ logo. With heads full of steam, commuters and travelers hurry to (or from) their trains, passing all of the signage without much notice.
5 of 10. “Unamused”
Visitors arrive at Frankfurt’s Römerberg, scurrying about for pictures of reconstructed buildings around the plaza. While a woman has wandered to one of the shops, her little dog looks nonplussed, reflecting the body language of the man who’s “stuck” with the dog and holding the bag. Who is the least amused? Most of the people are visitors, but are residents happy to come here, or do they avoid the area? And, by the way, so many triangles I can’t unsee …
6 of 10. “Big city, little fish”
It’s often surprising to see fishing in the waters around the grand metropolis of Hong Kong. Fixed to one end, the taut curve of the fishing rod mirror the sloping pier and the distant mountains. Tightly packed towers at the right stretch high over one another to go “tops of the pops”. Are these two fishermen content, or do they want what’s on the other side?
7 of 10. “Bis gleich!” (“See ya!”)
People stream through during the afternoon rush at Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten station. In the sea of faces, the focus goes immediately to the glowing hopeful smile of a woman talking to her boyfriend. The camera’s gaze lingers in the framing. For a moment, I’m taken aback by the simple almost naked honesty.
8 of 10. “Feierabend” (“Quitting time”)
In the fading light of a late-fall afternoon, people are queueing on the platforms for their respective commutes in Berlin. The central figure appears to be looking for his train and for his own way home. I’m projecting onto him, but I can’t help but think what my life would be like if I returned to live in the German capital city.
9 of 10. “Allein Abend, Heiligabend” (“solitary evening, Xmas Eve”)
At 810pm, what’s normally a busy train station at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz is mostly empty on Christmas Eve. Stores are closed, streets are quiet. Trains still run on schedule, but most people are where they’re supposed to be, except for a few, like this woman at platform 2. Upon reflection, this scene says a lot about me, too: where else should I be on Christmas Eve?
10 of 10. “Night watch”
The lights cast a warm glow onto the plaster walls and the street’s cobblestones. It’s a classic scene for Prague at night. The scene announces “this is the way to go”, with no regard to anyone to witness the imperative. But that’s the way from which I’ve come: I’m a witness to what’s ahead and what’s behind. It’s all suggestive for some answers and a possible solution.
Except for the cover/featured image from Pexels with the use of the CC0 license, I made all of the remaining photos from 2010 to 2015. This post is based upon a submission to LensCulture’s Street Photography 2015 competition and appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7bz.
8 Responses to “Alone twice for the price of one”
Loved this one!
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Thanks, Cornelia. Was there a particular picture or caption that spoke to you?
Thoroughly enjoy the running theme of curiosity. What are they up to? Where does it lead? Where did it come from? The best bit of curiosity Henry, is when you pose the same questions to yourself.
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I think there’s always an element and approach to “curiosity” to my photography, as any photographer should have. But as I also stated, I wanted to highlight themes of isolation and urbanity, and the universality of “home.” 😁
[…] “Solterra” is a Spanish compound word consisting of “sol” (sun) and “terra” (earth or ground). “Soltera” is the Spanish noun for a single unmarried woman. There’s delicious irony and paradox, and even a possible parable for local residents (yay) and developers (boo). I wrote more here and here. […]
[…] Cover image by Henry Lee […]
[…] “A-Maze-ing Laughter” by Yue Minjun: Vancouver, Canada – 27 September 2014 […]
[…] Laughter”; but what I call in this superposition “the gulf of Georgia” – 27 Sept 2014 […]