From when I first thought about creating a website of my travel photos from China, to when I actually got around to it, three years had already gone by. Fortunately, the web as a medium for self-publishing, is still much the same, even in internet time, which meant I could actually launch the damn thing.
My hesitation has not been entirely due to laziness; I was also caught in a philosophical quandary. On the one hand, I felt my photographs didn't merit any form of publishing. Of all the images of China contained in existing media coffee-table books, magazines, exhibits, TV, film it seemed that the most spectacular images had already been captured. Wright Morris once wrote "If there is a common dilemma, it lies in the fact that so much has been seen, so much has been "taken", [and] there appears to be less to find. The visible world, vast as it is, through overexposure has been devalued..." I certainly didn't want to contribute to image inflation, especially in our world of disposable cameras. On the other hand, the fact that one is able to self-publish, provided tools are available, is profound. It seemed silly for me not to take advantage of the opportunity to share some part of my experience with others that might be interested.
Even while in China in 1992-93, I struggled with this dilemma. Susan Sontag's compelling essays on photography addressed the inherent power relationships between photographer and subject, and left me feeling uncomfortable taking pictures as I travelled. Photographing people remains a challenge for me. Yet, I was hopelessly conditioned admittedly tempted to capture images that struck me.
Several years later, I'm back to where I began. Words and images both serve as a testament to the passage of time. I both want and don't want record of my personal history. In the same way that a photograph will slowly replace a mental image, words used to describe an experience eventually diffuse the deeper, inexplicable meaning of that experience. Still, I write and take pictures so that I do not forget. Every now and then, walking or riding my bike through neighborhoods in San Francisco, a smell, a particular kind of lighting, or some combination of audio-visual stimuli causes me to remember an obscure part of my experience in China that I could not have "recorded" in any way. This is the ultimate kind of remembering because I know what was so unique that I loved about living there remains profound and intact within me.
These snapshots of China are in no way a comprehensive or even representative collection of the people and life I encountered during my one year stay there...they are but miniature portraits, often of the most mundane things which I found to be aesthetic. My descriptions are by and large divorced from my actual experiences, as I continue to feel it impossible to convey the China I saw beyond the superficial.
Special thanks to my adventurous travel partners for always putting up with me in often trying situations, to Gregg Butensky for slick production help and inspiration, and to my enthusiastic family for encouraging me to complete this site. Feel free to share your thoughts with me. Thanks for visiting!
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