Yikes, so much to say, where to start. The Pingyao International Photography Festival was life changingly good. So much happened to be in such a short period of time that I think my head will explode. Never have I see so many Leica's before...
- The James Natchwey presentation "The Passion of Alah" was stunning, period.
- Some Chinese photographer, whos name I cant recall, had some awesome photos from Angkor. I hope I can go someday.
- Pingyao is a very interesting old city which sadly has become a tourist trap, but still has enough appeal to warrant a return trip next year.
- By far my favorite showing of photos was by a Chinese photographer named Lu Guang who showed photo journalistic photos of the city of Ruili, in Yunnan province, where Heroin use is so common that people use it then crash right in the streets.
- A classmate and fellow photographer named Wangyi and I are now together. One of her friends warned her that this might happen. Well...it did.
- Only Minutes after Wangyi and I were actually together, preeminent photographer Rene Burri walked up to the table my girlfriend and I were sitting at and said "A couple sitting together, listening to music, very cute." This literally shocked the hell out of me because I recognized who he was the moment I looked at him. We shared a few words as he smoked a huge cigar and then he went on his way. An unforgettable moment.
- Just about everywhere you go in Pinyao someone will try to rip you off. A sad truth of the tourist traps in China.
- I met another photojournalist, William Betsch, author of amoung things, the book "Hakima, a Tragedy In Fez". We spent most of a night sitting in a bar discussing photojournalism over a few too many drinks. It was very enlightening to speak with someone with so much real life experience in photojournalism. He said that photojournalism is about telling the truth and a sad fact is most of the time people dont want to know the truth. We also discussed the finer points of how photojournalism is no longer so much an art form but a job in which more is better and quantity outweighs quality in the real world. Mr. Betsch and I are going to keep in contact as he wishes to come over to China to teach and settle down long term in a country he said "is full of love". We also talked about what I do and I commented that a lot of people think of my work as pointless and without taste, he said thats what most people will say about photojournalists, but then 10-20 years down the road when everything in the world changes, people look back at what we have done and admire us for preserving the past. He also commented that I "have what it takes" not only because I got the right attitude about going about what I do, but because I apparently "say whats on my mind and speak my words clearly so its easy to understand my meaning" I feel that talking to him is was a life changing experience and I can say that I made a friend.
- One night there was a rock performance, not too bad, but everyone was sitting in chairs....how boring, I convinced my gf and friends to at least stand and dance....sitting at a rock concert...bah....naturally however this attracted a lot of attention since everyone there was a photographer....
- One of the really strange things that kept happening while my gf and I were walking around was that everyone kept taking photos of the two of us....it was being chased by the paparazzi...neither of us have any clue what that was all about but everyday a minimum of at least 10 photographers (that we saw), both Chinese and foreign (especially this old french guy...) were taking photos of the two of us. Um....
- The presentation of nine photos I displayed went over well in my mind, it was bold and very different then the other students work around me. My display was of the shots I took in Gong Tan, the 1200 year old town leveled and drowned due to the rising water of the 3 gorges damming project. Most people simply glanced and walked away as the photos I showed were of the everyday life of the inhabitants of the small town, but one person took special notice of them, the editor of Popular Photography magazine here in China. He was interested in connecting me and speaking to me about my photos and getting my information down and was very curious about my opinions about film vs. digital and other details of photography. He also was pretty glazed over by the Mamiya 6 with the very rare Heliopan UV SH-PMC filter on the end of it.
- Speaking of Mamiya....an American photography noticed I had a Mamiya 6, I was looking at his photos and he walked over and in that kind of english you would say to someone who didnt understand a word of it he said "This......this......Mamiya!" pointing to my camera then to his photos and then enthusiastically indicating with his hands that he used a Mamiya 7 to make them. I just shoot there looking at him, smiling and nodding like a good clueless looking Chinese guy then said "Yeah....I speak english." Shocked the hell out of the guy when he found out im actually from Seattle. Haha....
- My teacher, Yu Xiao Feng (a very romantic Chinese name...go figure he is 39 and single) proves yet again that he is just the coolest teacher in the world. He took us out to a bar one night and we all sat there drinking tequila and talking.....Later when we had to stay in this other town overnight waiting for our train he encouraged me and my girlfriend to get a room together....how many teachers you know would do that???
Overall my impressions are very good, I encourage anyone who can possibly make it there next year to go. There is so much to see....I was there for 9 days and I didnt even get to see half of what was there even though I was out the door at 9 and back at 10 every day. I will, without a doubt, go again next year.