The Chairman & Frida
Sui Jian Guo’s The Sleep of Reason is an awesome sculpture. Chairman Mao rests sleepfully in the middle of a colorful landscape formed by hundreds of small dinosaur figures. I spent all my energy sneaking photos of other things in that exhibit, so I ran out of frames right as I was about to take a color pic of this sculpture, which occupies its own mini room. I loaded in B&W, but it doesn’t come across nearly as well. Museum photo policies are not awesome though, so if anyone knows where there’s a better photo online of this sculpture, I’d love to see it. The least they could do is let people with point and shoots take photos – why the hell are they declining all that free online buzz?
Also saw the popular Frida exhibit, which was actually a bit disappointing. Her canvases are not particularly large nor her brushstrokes too 3D (especially not her earlier paintings), so I didn’t feel like I took all that much away from it that I hadn’t gotten out of the Hayden Herrera book of her paintings. The photo portion, however, had a couple of slide negs mounted on a lightbox which were, true to other people’s rants of slide love, pretty stunning in how colorful and 3D they looked. I picked up a couple of rolls of Provia on the way home, though I don’t know how good they’ll turn out with no meter on the Canonet. Guess I’ll either meter with another cam, or hope I’m good at it by now. I shot off a roll of Neopan in Chinatown and felt a little rusty after using cams that meter. Might have to develop it myself and overcook a little. I’m looking forward to shooting medium format slides though.
And somewhere in there I need to figure out when I’m going to China, for how long, and what I might want to focus on shooting in Harbin, which is one of those semi-rural cities that are developing fast. Last time I was there, the street markets struck me, especially as chain stores were starting to move in. By now, who knows, everything might’ve been paved over already… there were a lot of issues with construction worker safety too, as there was a collapse as an underground shopping center was being built, and it came out that the contractors had been skimping on materials and quality equipment. I’ll have to sit down and get the lay of the land once I get over there. I don’t know how much shooting in Shanghai I’ll do, or how much truly journalistic stuff I’ll do, but maybe I’ll chat briefly with cab drivers and small shop owners to get a sense of what’s going on.
I might start practicing in Chinatown on my shooting days. Some people look away once they see me aiming, but some smile and cheese it up. I might try to approach the ones that seem friendly and do more straight on portraits or ask them stuff, or I dunno, just get used to speaking to strangers in Chinese. What I really liked this trip out were the take out places with roasted fowl in the windows. I’d really like to get some more shots of customers interacting with the people behind the counter. Also, some of the cheesy/gaudy Chinese/American culture fusion shop windows in the more touristy parts. Haven’t decided how I might want to approach someone to do a more one on one, full on follow-around project. I guess start and see…?
smurph thinks I should shoot less film and invest in a 5D instead, but I wonder if I’d be as innocuous looking as I am with the Canonet. I guess autofocus would allow for quicker shots though. I dunno… but looks like I’ll have to choose by the end of the week, as the instant rebates expire on 7/19. Dunno if the prices would drop more than $300 once the mark II version is released, as is rumored to happen by the end of the year.
The Mamiya is pretty damn nice. Large negs are beautiful and smooth, and the lenses for the 7 are very sharp if not the sharpest in the field of medium format rangefinders. It’s lighter than my SLRs with a comparable lens, and I can handhold it at far slower speeds. Down to 1/8 for acceptably sharp if I’m careful, and 1/15 for more consistently sharp photos. The finder’s different than the Canonet and seems to require more centered placement of the eye, and a light touch is needed to meter before clicking the shutter, but all in all, it is a beautiful, simple piece of equipment. Also a bit of a conversation starter, though I hope it looks like an old unwieldy POS so no one tries to mug me for it. :)