Protests in Istanbul After Police Crackdown on Activists

The events in Istanbul have escalated incredibly quickly in the past few days, with a revolution now at hand. There are many interesting underlying stories about the protests, including the silence of the traditional media and the coverage of these events by internet sites like reddit and imgur. But what is most interesting to me is that all this started because the government was going to destroy one of the last remaining green spaces in the city to make room for a mall. Obviously the people of Turkey are angry about more than just the building of one more mall; they are fed up with the entire regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But it should not be overlooked that the last straw, the thing that pushed them over the edge, came when their last remaining park was threatened. It is symbolic, I believe, of increasing worldwide frustration with governments that continue to destroy natural environments and green spaces for the sake of development and urbanization. At the very least, it is a powerful message about what people truly value: open community space, fresh air, and a direct connection to the earth.

World

Activists agitating against the construction of a shopping mall in a park in Istanbul were violently dispersed by Turkish police. The move triggered mass protests in Turkey’s largest city as well as demonstrations elsewhere, now channeling widespread frustrations and anger with the rule of the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Guizhou (Only A Month Late)

I know I’m late but…

At the end of March I went back to China, only this time the Tufts group travelled to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province. And while I had been to Beijing and Shanghai a month earlier, somehow this was more ‘real’ China than before. I thought that because I had already been to China that culture shock would not be so bad, but it was still a slap in the face. One of the poorer regions of China, poverty is a lot more visible than Beijing.  

We were part of a tour group, with the Tufts students taking up 80% of the spots; I feel bad for the few other women who were stuck with the loud Americans. Our tour guide did not speak english, but for some reason we still had to pay her. I would’ve liked to have known what I was looking at as we drove through the countryside but most of the time I just ended up sleeping. The first day we drove 3 hours out to a government-sponsored minority village, which was uncomfortable at times. The first thing we saw was rows of older women dancing; or rather shuffling their feet to the dissonant, spine-tingling music being produced by some kind of devilish chinese violin. I honestly thought one of the women was going to cry, the look on her face was so upsetting. Luckily, we quickly moved on.

just casually hammering some dough

just casually hammering some dough

Next we saw a show, where chinese singers and musicians acted out, as far as I could tell, the story of a drunken feast. Well, turns out that is a common event here, as we were ushered into a local home (super cool) and promptly forced to drink some rice wine with our lunch. The women working (living?) there literally brought the cup up to your mouth and if you didn’t open up they probably would’ve poured it down your chin. My friend and I, trying to avoid these mandatory noontime shots, finished ours before they had worked down the table. Our hosts were undeterred however, and simply refilled our cups and made us drink anyway. Oh well.

Inside a local home

Inside a local home

We walked up to the top of this village to a pretty unbelievable view; the mountains in this region are surreal. On the way up we passed a elderly lady strolling down the hill with her arms behind her back. When we looked back, my friends and I swore she was holding a submachine gun behind her back. We were too far away to tell if it was real, but I wasn’t about to find out. Only in China.

Village

The Village From the Top

The Village

The Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night back at the hotel we went to the grocery store to grab some beers and stumbled upon these gems:

PBR World War II Veteran Edition Beer

PBR World War II Veteran Edition Beer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, those are PBR cans commemorating the American Veterans in WWII. Again, only in China. The next day we drove (only 2 hours this time) to walk through what I’m convinced was Jurassic Park. It was this awesome park with 365 steps (1 for each day of the year) across the water through spires of rock and giant ferns.

If I were a dinosaur, I'd live here

If I were a dinosaur, I’d live here

Next we visited Huangguoshu Waterfall, a 255-foot tall cascade with an awesome cave where you can basically walk underneath the thundering curtain of water. Again, surreal is about the only way I can describe it.

looking out from the cave

looking out from the cave

Huangguoshu Falls

Huangguoshu Falls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few other oddities during the trip:

– Immediately after exiting the airport, Vera wasted no time in telling us where we could buy some dog meat. I looked for dog jerky as a souvenir but no luck.

– Everyone smokes cigarettes, everywhere. In the elevator, at the restaurants, in the hotel lobby. Even at 7 am during breakfast people were smoking cigarettes. Yum!

– I received a fortune cookie said, “You will have further progress in your career.” Still waiting for that one to pan out…

– In general, bathrooms are a bit of an adventure, and half of the time you are standing or squatting in a puddle of well…something. A lot of the time I felt better not washing my hands (yes, that bad).

It was a short trip, but pretty eye-opening and based on the looks people were giving us, not many westerners get to this part of China. I consider myself privileged to see how ‘real’ China operates. Plus not so bad when the view outside the bus window consistently looked like this:

typical geography

typical geography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t know if I’ll ever be back to China, but I won’t forget it.

Tunnel Exploration and Rugby Nation

Somehow March is almost over and there are a mere 2 months left of my Hong Kong adventure. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from Buddhism, it is not to dwell in the future and to enjoy the present. Technically I’m not supposed to dwell in the past either, but for the sake of this post I will review some of the things I’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

Sometimes I forget that just beyond the city there are tons of mountains just waiting to be explored. I don’t know any other city where you can take a subway ride for 30 minutes, walk another 10 minutes from the station and just start hiking. A couple weeks ago my friend Jessie and I set out to tackle the 2nd highest mountain in HK, Lantau Peak. Although it is a little further away, Lantau Island is a great place to get outside. The hike is pretty much straight up for 2 hours, and the steps seem like they go on forever. The crazy thing about hiking in HK is that you can look one direction and see giant apartment complexes, and if you turn 180 degrees you get a view like this:

Jessie on Lantau Peak

Jessie on Lantau Peak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we reached the top a heavy fog came rolling in and the wind picked up pretty strong, and I almost felt like I was back in New Hampshire.

Lantau Peak

Lantau Peak

South Carter, New Hampshire

South Carter, New Hampshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks after Lantau Peak, Aanya, Brian and I checked out Devil’s Peak, a mountain across the bay in Kowloon. Devil’s Peak is one of the weirder mountains I’ve explored. There are the remains of several different military structures, used by the British in the past. And on the other side there is a giant traditional Chinese Cemetery:

Chinese Cemetary

Chinese Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By far the coolest part of Devil’s peak was the crazy cave/grotto/tunnel that Aanya discovered on the way up to the peak. It’s this little opening in the rock that twists about 30 meters through the side of the mountain, eventually coming out on the other side. It was only about 3 feet high in there so we basically had to crawl. It was pitch black and as I led the way using an iphone as a light source (thanks technology) I was convinced I was going to find a human skeleton or a sleeping cougar. After our tunnel adventure we grabbed food at a 24-hour breakfast joint and had a couple beers before making it back to the dorms.

Then there was Vietnam, which I’ll get to…in another post. The weekend after was the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, which is an awesome 3-day tournament that brings fans from all over the world. As a member of the HKU rugby team I was lucky enough to get a friday ticket for 100 HKD ($12, they usually cost about $100 for Friday and a lot more for the whole weekend). Sevens was by far one of my favorite things I’ve done in HK. Over 5 hours of rugby with lots of friends and lots of beer. I can’t remember all the different costumes I saw but highlights included: a full-grown man as smurfette, several popes, nuns, and some kind of rasta jesus, pirates, and anything else you can think of. When the U.S was playing (we lost), our chants of USA drew some resent – I’m pretty sure someone threw a few cups at us. It probably didn’t help that my friend insisted on yelling back “You’re just jealous of our democracy!” (I’ll keep them anonymous for their own sake). Overall it was an awesome night. Uncle Ted if you’re reading this, I wish you could’ve been there to enjoy it with me.

Sevens by Night

Sevens by Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I leave again tomorrow for China, further convincing me that this is not real life. Last piece of good news, someone bought one of my photographs through UGallery, an awesome website that sells some of my work.To my anonymous purchaser, THANK YOU! Definitely a cool feeling knowing that someone out there liked my work enough to pay money for it.

1 Roll of Film, 3 Countries

At the bottom of the Great Wall of China, in the back of a souvenir shop, there was a glass case with old boxes of film collecting dust. Naturally I bought one, an ancient roll of AGFACOLOR XRG 100. The box was faded and dusty, and I’m pretty sure the inside had at least 2 spiders living in it. Oh, and it expired in 1992. Not to mention, I’m sure that film has sat there for the last 20 years completely unrefrigerated, through the 10-degree winters and 90-degree summers of China. Expired film does funny things, not to mention film that expired 20 years ago and has been subjected to extreme temperature swings. But  as I’ve said many times, this is what makes film so fun – there is still a sense of adventure and mystery every time you get a roll developed.

So not only was this film special because of it’s age and unpredictability, it ended up staying in my camera as I travelled from China, back to Hong Kong, and finally to Vietnam, before the last frame was exposed. Which brings us to another cool part about shooting with traditional film: 1 roll can contain information spanning several weeks or months, and every frame has the potential to be exposed somewhere totally different. The same can be said of digital pictures on a memory card, except a roll of film has a physical element that digital cameras cannot approach.

There’s the antiques market in Beijing, which was full of strange instruments, flasks, Chinese arts and crafts, and an infinite number of Mao posters. The next frames show a hike up to Lantau Peak in Hong Kong, where the fog rolled in so thickly we couldn’t see anything, and I almost forgot that the airport was around the corner. And the last few frames are from the first day in Hanoi during my trip to Vietnam, which I will get to in my next post. Stay Tuned.

On the Prospect of Being in a Chinese Family’s Vacation Photo Album

It’s been over a week since I returned from China, and life is busier than ever (I even have some homework to do). After developing, scanning, and editing the 5 rolls of film I shot while in the mainland, I’m going to do my best to describe my ridiculous, sleep-deprived, cold, and overwhelming week in China.

Shanghai was first. We arrived on new years eve, and after a couple quick touristy sights we went to a restaurant for a new years ‘feast’. For all of you who were wondering, jellyfish does NOT taste anything like jelly or fish; it’s crunchy (ew). Luckily, the pepper beef and steamed cabbage was insanely good, so we didn’t starve. That night the group went out and were seduced by a deal where it was 100 RMB (16 USD) for an open bar and entry to 2 clubs. I mean what could possibly go wrong with 15 20-something-year-old Americans in a Shanghai nightclub with an open bar on Chinese New Years Eve? I won’t bore you with the details but it involved a lot of dancing, stuffed snakes, cigarette burns, and an extravagant (and potentially unsafe) amount of fireworks being set off in the street at midnight. In fact, from that night on, it was normal for people to launch fireworks whenever and wherever they wanted. The first few nights we kept thinking the city was under attack, but by the end of the trip they had become so common that I was beginning to wonder if China had permanently ruined 4th of July for me.

Despite our successful first night, the rest of our time in Shanghai was kind of a bust. Because of the holiday, everything was shut down the next day, and on Monday the museums and other cultural areas were still closed. Shanghai has undergone extreme growth in the past 20 years or so, and you can tell a lot of thought went into the planning of the city. Even so we heard horror stories of the traffic jams, and apparently despite the 4-lane highways and well designed roads drivers still sit in 2 hours of traffic regularly.

Up next: Beijing. I was unsure how much I would like Beijing, but I have to say it was amazing. Our four days there were a whirlwind of amazing food, ancient temples, bartering for knock-off Ralph Lauren shirts and propaganda posters, unsuccessfully googling “Tiananmen Square,” bizzarre modern art, more delicious food, climbing the great wall, sledding across a frozen lake using fire pokers to push ourselves, and fighting through swarms of chinese trying to follow our tour guide as she led us into oncoming traffic. For some reason I thought that because I had already been in Hong Kong, the culture shock wouldn’t be so intense, but it was just as extreme (maybe more) as when I first landed in HK. It’s just hard to get used to driving past giant Apple stores, Maserati dealerships, Gucci stores and Burberry shops, then turning a corner and finding yourself at an ancient temple gate.

After a while it was difficult to express anymore astonishment at our surroundings. “OK, China” became a common response as we just accepted whatever ridiculousness was thrust in front of us. Mao looked back at us from our money and on every corner you could find someone wearing a big furry hat with a red star on the front. People asked to take pictures with us, and I’m pretty sure my friend was proposed to by a waiter. One parent even thrust his daughter into our arms, claiming it was her homework to have her picture taken with foreigners. She looked terrified. I can’t help but wonder how many of us will end up in a family album somewhere. I could go on, but there is too much, so here is a list of some remaining highlights:

– green tea + oreo blizzards at Dairy Queen. Seriously delicious and they don’t exist anywhere else

-communist puns: “Mao Money, Mao Problems” and “Commi Maybe” (I can’t take credit for either of those)

– FOOD: the best kung pow chicken ever, bullfrog, delicious tofu, pumpkin cakes, some fusion that I could never classify, and a million other things I can’t remember. More adventurous people ate scorpions and grasshoppers at the street stalls

– Getting in the elevator and seeing the chinese news station showing footage of the Russian comet and thinking that north korea had launched a missile and freaking out

– The Great Wall. One of those things that neither words nor photos can do justice. Oh, and to get down we took a GIANT METAL SLIDE. It’s awesome and fast and guards jump out and yell at you to slow down (ha).

Check the pictures below.

Why You Should Always Say Yes When Your Dad Wants to Go Skiing

As I’ve mentioned, there is always a time lapse that comes with shooting film, and it is one of the qualities that make it so rewarding. So for this post I’m going back almost 2 months to the end of december.

On December 30th, the last day of our Christmas vacation, my dad went skiing by himself. Usually, I am always jumping at the opportunity for one more ski day, especially when it’s just my dad and I. But for some reason on that day I turned him down, opting to go snowshoeing with my mother instead. Looking back, I’m reluctant to admit that maybe I was a bit spoiled by the first half of our vacation, which had been full of snow and relatively empty of people. Now that it was the other way around, I didn’t want to water down my trip with a day of mediocre skiing. I hate myself for thinking that way, because there really is no such thing as a “mediocre” day of skiing with your dad. I hate myself even more because while out by himself, my dad fell and tore his ACL.

My mom and I were about 10 minutes away from finishing our hike and meeting up with my father for lunch when he called in severe pain saying he fell and was about to pass out. Twenty minutes later we picked him up from the mountain, and although he was smiling and laughing, the laughter was terse and tinted with anxiety. At the hospital, we learned  that not only did my dad tear his ACL, he also completed what the doctor fondly called the triple crown: a torn ACL, a strained MCL, and a “buckled” PCL (how do you buckle a ligament? Gross).

As the doctor explained the diagnosis, I was impressed at my dad’s composure. He was clearly frustrated and angry, but I know that if it had been me, I would’ve been a wreck. Recovery from ACL surgery takes about six months.  All I could think about was how if I had gone with him none of this would’ve happened. That’s all I had been thinking about since the first phone call.

Back at home, the upcoming surgery dominated my father’s thoughts. He watched surgery videos on youtube (again, gross) and read about every surgery horror story and post-surgery disaster. He was scared; I would’ve been terrified. The original surgery was scheduled for after I left for Hong Kong, but my dad moved it up to the Friday before, and I was glad to be there for him. On a rainy cold friday in New York, my mom and I saw my dad into surgery. I met up with some friends while my mom remained at the hospital to wait. I tried to enjoy my last night out with friends that I wouldn’t see for months, but I was preoccupied by my dad’s progress, not to mention the weight of my impending flight across the world. It was a weird night, and in the end I was annoyed that I didn’t stick around to bring my dad home.

When I left two days later, my dad was still sleeping in the couch downstairs and was fighting to maintain clarity despite his narcotics. Being the oldest son (only son) I felt like I needed to stay and help, but I had a plane to Hong Kong to catch.

I took pictures throughout the whole ordeal but obviously missed some important moments (fresh out of surgery, the actual accident) and am currently missing the rehab process (my mom tells me he’s doing well). I can only hope my dad and I are skiing together again next winter; this time I will make sure not to miss any opportunities.

Holga Interlude

Just got back to Hong Kong after spending Chinese New Year break in China, which I may never get to do again. As much As I want to get into the awesomeness of that week, I’m waiting to get my film back so I have some photos to accompany my stories. In the meantime, here are some photos from a Holga roll from the first few weeks. Once again, there is something magical about the spontaneity and simplicity of the Holga (see my earlier post) that makes you excited to even get one picture back. I was lucky enough to get all mine back, despite the accidental overlapping & double-exposure that occurred across the whole roll, and a couple light leaks. There’s nothing quite like a holga photo.

Enjoy!

Trying to Keep Up

Life has been moving at a light-speed recently, and finding the time to blog has been hard. Because even the everyday “normal” things and activities are adventurous and new, it’s difficult to remember, let alone explain, all that happens.

Last Wednesday I did a short solo hike on a trail called Dragon’s Back, which follows the steep up-and-down coastline on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island. Getting to the trailhead required taking a bus, the subway, and then after a brief period of wandering around Shau Kei Wan finding the third bus that got me to the start of my hike. I thought I would get some weird looks on the subway, wearing my hiking boots and shorts and synthetic t-shirt, but because this is Hong Kong, no one paid any mind. Come to think of it, no one even gave a second glance to the girl in a bright red leather sleeveless dress (I think it was a dress), or the guy with the front half of his hair dyed electric blue. After watching the mirrors of the double-decker bus scrape the high concrete walls as the bus barreled around the edge of the mountain road, I was happy to be on my own two feet as I started up the steep trail. I immediately entered a small bamboo forest (casual) and then was thrust out into bright sunlight and humid air as I climbed up to Shek O peak.

I passed some young kids in jeans and flip-flops, carrying nothing but their cameras, and felt a little foolish looking down at my hiking boots and feeling the weight of my backpack on my back. But I soon forgot all about them as I reveled in the fresh air and the view of open sea and sky, especially after the last few weeks of skyscrapers, cramped buses, and sardine-can elevators. The views were spectacular, with the ocean and surrounding islands clearly visible and green peaks stretching on into the distance. The hike ended at a beautiful little beach, with locals surfing (or at least attempting to in the tiny waves). After a quick nap and some ice cream, I headed back to reality.

Hiking gave me some time to reflect on just how different my life has become since leaving home. Inevitably, I thought about a solo hike in western Massachusetts I had completed exactly 4 weeks before, only a few days before I had left for Hong Kong. That day I broke trail through over a foot and a half of snow, and saw only three people during my eight hours on the mountain. The silence was as deep as the snow and the cold air cleared my mind as I prepared for my journey halfway around the world.

As I stood on Shek O peak, sweating in the humid Hong Kong air and reliving the cold snowy peak of Greylock, I become all too aware of how much had happened in the short four weeks since that time, and how much more I will do while here. But beyond that, I realized that this was exactly the kind of thing I came to Hong Kong for – to put my life in perspective by experiencing the world from a new vantage point. Only by hiking in HK could I realize the valuable lessons learned from the hike that day in Massachusetts. As I continue to experience the world from my newfound vantage point, I hope I also continue to learn new things about myself and where I stand in the world.

Below are pictures from both hikes; enjoy!

What I wish I was doing

Every once in a while, I come across a series of photographs that is so in tune with my own artistic vision and personal interests that I curse myself for not coming up with it myself. Most of the time it is something that I have turned over in my mind as an interesting idea, but quickly realized was totally impossible give my current education, finances, and occupation (is student even an occupation?). The project Shadow Within by Christian Houge is one of those projects that I wish so badly was my own. Houge photographs wolves. But it’s not your typical National Geographic photograph that was shot with a telephoto lens at long distances. On the contrary, many of the photos show just how aware the wolves are of Houge’s presence , and amazingly, how comfortable they seem to be despite him being there.

I’ve been in love with wolves since I was little. I remember being only 11 or 12 on a trip to Canada, where I watched in complete awe as a pack ran through the woods next to the road, silent streaks of grey that seemed to dissolve in and out of the trees. For me, the wolf has always symbolized the wild nature that we all have inside of us but choose to ignore and surpress. Additionally, the wolf has always been associated with evil and darkness; one only has to look at fairytales and folklore to confirm that the fear of wolves runs deeps in human society. Yet I would argue that part of that fear comes from the fact that we are afraid to admit how much the wolf reminds us of ourselves.

And this is why Houge’s project is so frustratingly perfect. It explores these issues that I have considered dozens of times. Wanting to get close to the animals, he had to take a safety course in order to learn their language and understand the signs they use. He had to let himself go.

“You have to face your fear,” he says. “They are in your face, and they have their tongue in your mouth, if they choose to come and greet you. This is how they get food from their parents when they are young. It is a sense of security, but it is their way of showing they’re in charge.”

Working with packs around the world and spending days at a time in the woods, Houge manages to get extremely close to these beautiful animals and in his images he shows us those wild elements which we all have deep down.

Houge believes that exploring our more wild side, our “shadows within,” is crucial in learning more about ourselves and how we interact with nature.

On his website, Houge writes, “I think the idea of Man trying to control nature as opposed to utilizing and respecting it, brings up a strong metaphor of how we humans deal with the environment we are a part of and dependant upon. Most people have their own reference to what the wolf represents, starting from their early childhood… I wish to explore deeper into Mans psyche and what we all can learn of our own shadow sides through this creature.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, and to top it all off, the images are absolutely stunning. The black and white photographs, depicting flashing teeth and piercing eyes, have rich blacks and sublime midtones. Again, the project of my dreams.

You can see the full series on his website, and read more on the Lens Blog

Transitions

I’ve been living with the same group of individuals, more or less, for the past 3 years. During that time I have made countless photographs of them, documenting the time we have shared. Traditionally I used my trusty 35mm camera to capture moments as they happend, spontaneously. However this semester I began to use a medium format camera, the Mamiya 7, which I liked so much I bought my own. Because the film is so much bigger, the number of frames per roll of film is less, and therefore each photograph costs more, literally. This fact, combined with the size and general slowness of the Mamiya forced me to take a different approach.

Still interested in photographing these individuals who filled the minutes & hours of my life, I began setting up appointments which my friends, placing them in front of the camera and taking more control over what I saw through my viewfinder (technically it’s a rangefinder). As the semester progressed I thought about the way my friends and I had changed from that first year we spent together, and how these photographs were so different from those early snapshots (I still continued to shoot my ‘snapshot’ photographs throughout this time). The most obvious change, and probably the most cliche, is that we are growing up. But it is deeper than that. The more I look, the more I realize that my pictures constitute an ongoing  investigation of the way my friends have crafted their identities. These more formal portraits represent the way I saw my friends at this point in time; they are frozen in transition, for even today their identity has been further developed.

As I continue to photograph and live with these individuals, I cannot help but think of a long-term project, one which attempts to show the development and molding of myself and my friends. I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, enjoy the portraits from this semester, and CHECK OUT THE NEW WEBSITE I MADE!!!!!!!!!