Portraits of artist – Jonathan Roxmouth

He was not offended or upset at all when I shut him behind a fire escape door. I  asked him to look into my camera through a  glassed slit. Then I asked him to place his hand up against the other glassed slit. Then I moved him and had him sit on a stool and  positioned him so that he was framed by a rectangular in the wall. I know I could be a very demanding photographer. But he was very patient and cooperative during the whole shoot.  I was impressed, considering the fact that not many stars in the entertainment industry are this down to earth.  This star I photographed weeks ago is Jonathan Roxmouth from South Africa. By the way, I tend to make the subject ugly if he or she is too full of himself/herself. There was a time I wanted to make someone look sinister with two harsh side lights. He was lucky because I didn’t have two lights with me. But I wouldn’t want to make Jonanthan Roxmouth look sinister or ugly. Because I believe he is NOT.  

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Portraits of artists: Fang Lijun

It probably tickled him when I asked Fang Lijun if I could photograph his bald head with his famous “2016 Autumn ”  as a background. That photo taken, he told me that the painted bald head to his left was his, too!  He laughed when I asked if I could also photograph him standing between two walls, which would make him look cornered, or like a student being punished by his teacher.  Like many real and pure artists I met over my years as a writer/photographer, Fang was very down to earth, never to put on airs.  I like Fang’s artworks.  He is one of the few Chinese artists whose works I deeply appreciate.  One of the few who have something to say and and say it in their distinct styles.  Fang’s works send out a strong message in a unique style. And he is very bold, or brave.

(Photo credit: SCMP / XIAOMEI CHEN)

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Tai Kwun

Tai Kwun in Central, Hong Kong, a former prison, is  now a  centre for heritage and arts that will bring culture and leisure experiences. I had an assignment there last Friday and was fascinated by the space there, thus returned there with my 50mm Nikon lens. Its  sense of space and the afternoon light captured my heart. 

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Portraits of artist: Tsai Ming-liang

(Photo copyright: SCMP/XIAOMEI CHEN)

After the interview, I said to the famous Taiwanese director: “I watched ‘What Time Is It

There’ years ago.”

“In China?” He asked.

“In China,” I nodded.

“You must have watched a pirated one,” he laughed.

I laughed, too.

He was right. It was a pirated one.

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Portraits of artist: Yo-yo Ma

I am holding two passports, one issued by my country, the other by my camera. Reasonably I like my second passport better. Much better. From time to time, it takes me to meet great artists.  One day, it took me to Yo-yo Ma, one of my all time favorite musicians. I photographed him during YMCG in Guangzhou, China, in January 2018. His humor and love for fun is beyond description by words. (Photo copyright: SCMP/XIAOMEI CHEN)

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Starting a year of dog

Dragons and lions. And dogs, of course, in a year of dog. Lots of dogs. Dogs everywhere.  A woman in her mid eighties, a famous actress called Wong Ha Wai, heavily made up, dressed up as a pink dog, went to the famous Wong Tai Sin Temple four hours before midnight, only to be the first of the year to pay tribute to Wong Tai Sin, the god, to ask for blessings. She touched her dog hat, then tucked out the pink dog tail, “there is a head, and a tail.” Her bright lips curved. Her  fake eyelashes flapped heavily. She repeated, “there is a head, and a tail.” A life head to tail. Complete.  Blessed.  Everyone wants blessings from Wong Tai Sin. Yet Wong Tai Sin is not enough. So they go to Che Kung Temple, too. With incenses taller than humans. Red incenses with choking blue smoke.  The temple workers didn’t like it, the blue blessing from the huge incense. Too tall, too heavy, too bulky, too hot, its smoke too thick, bringing tears to their eyes and making them cough.  Some wore goggles. I asked one of them, “do you burn incenses and pray too?” He smiled tiredly and sadly, “no.”  He reminded me of a man dressed up as a monkey king near Wong Tai Sin Temple on New Year’s Eve. When I left the temple and walked toward the MTR station, I spotted him sitting alone on a railing by the highway, a block away from the temple, in the dark except for the dim road lamp, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.  He saw me raising my camera, made a thumb-up. He shook my hand when I put down my camera.   A lonely monkey in the year of dog? I wondered if the loneliness I felt in him was just my imagination. If I had been not too bushed from work, I would have stayed to chat with him.

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“Time Discrepancy” Covered

As is expected, the mural,   “Time Discrepancy,”  was covered not long after I left Shenzhen.  This photo was taken by Jiamin Hu, who painted “Time Discrepancy.”

Copyright©Jiamin Hu

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Hats off Jiamin Hu, and Liu

A little boy scampered past a mural titled  “Time Discrepancy.” His blue school uniform is the same color as that of the empty chair in the mural. The coincidence is ironic, as what his school uniform stands for contradicts what the empty chair stands for.  I felt a bit shocked.

In fact, it is quite shocking that this mural passed the censorship and is still available on the wall of Guandi Temple in Nantou, Nanshan District, Shenzhen. Many people have noticed it, some take selfies with it, but few really know what it means, or what the empty chair stands for.

Are you thinking that the control in the biggest country (in terms of population) is loosening? Nope. It is actually getting tighter. The materialization of “Time Discrepancy”in Shenzhen is probably a result of ignorance. Information was so controlled in this country that even government officials know little about the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Mr. Liu, who passed away this year.

I have no doubt that someone is going to be in big trouble once the reports about this mural comes out in Hong Kong. I hope the artist can travel back to his home in France by then. Hats off to him, as well as to Liu and his wife.


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What? You never heard of him?

What? You never heard of him?

Nope. I never heard of him. Not till I got the assignment to shoot him. Shoot with my camera, of course.

There are many names I didn’t know till I got the assignments to shoot their owners.  Ben Foster, G.E.M., the Vidal twin sisters, Michael Wong, Francis Ng Chun-yu, Joseph Chang Hsiao-chuan… Forgive my ignorance. But nowadays there are simply way too many famous people for me to notice and remember.

One name I did know before I photographed its owner is Lang Lang, the pianist. A friend of mine is a big fan of him, telling me many times that he is a rare genius human kind produces only once every three hundred years. I have other friends who think Lang Lang is too flashy for classical music, though. After the photo shoot, many people, reporters, PRs, and students went crazy about having a selfie with the famous pianist. A PR, who was  very friendly and kind to me, kept motioning me for a selfie, too. “Come! Come!” She waved her hand and whispered excitedly. I smiled and shook my head, then proceeded to pack up my gear. It was quite late by the time we finished covering his talk at HKU, then a small group interview, then the shoot. Cold and hungry, I was eager to go home and eat and rest.

Yesterday, a PR and a few fellow journalists seemed shocked when I said I never heard of Jeremy Renner before. They kindly educated me about this Hollywood star and his  works till I felt like I should watch at least one movie by him.

We were granted  a 20-minute interview with Mr. Renner at Macau Culture Center. While a journalist was having a selfie with Mr. Renner after her interview with him, I took out my lighting gear for the photo shoot, when a woman, probably an American, said, “the photo shoot was not approved!” She sounded upset and vexed. I looked at her, surprised. Did I come all the way from Hong Kong only to be told that the planned photo shoot was not allowed?  I turned to look at the kind PR who accompanied me from from HK to Macau. He frowned, shook his head and smiled apologetically. I turned back to the upset and vexed woman, who repeated, “the photo shoot was not approved! Ok, fifteen minutes interview, then two minutes for photo shoot.”

I quickly put together my light stand, flash, and umbrella, set it next to Mr. Renner, hoping to snap a few shots during the interview, in case something went wrong during the two minutes I was granted.

The woman gave me an ugly look. I decided not to upset her further and didn’t take any photos during the interview without her permission. When she sat down on a chair behind me, I turned to her and whispered, “is it ok I snap a few shots during the interview?”

“No!” She frowned. (So that now all I remember about her is her vexed voice and her wrinkles from  frowning.)

She kept her eyes on her watch when I photographed Mr. Renner.  And she kept her promise of two minutes.

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I am always fascinated by mannequins. When I walk past shops, either in the high-end shopping malls or the dim street corners, I slow down when I see mannequins. Not to check out the latest fashion, to stare at the mannequins. I look into their blank eyes and I get a chill sense of surrealism. Blank, yet surreal. A huge space for imagination.  I’ve always wanted to do an art project with mannequins.

Today, I happen to see some mannequins at DesignInspire  expo in Hong Kong, which is to be open tomorrow (Dec. 07,2017). I looked at them for a long time, as fascinated as when I first saw a mannequin when a kid. They reminded me of a line by Edgar Allan Poe: Out of space, out of time.

Some day, I will do an art project with mannequins.

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