China in Photos

China in Photos: Day No. 9

China looks better in black and white, don’t you think?

I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the haziness, maybe its the early 80’s communist architecture, maybe its the lack of sun in Chengdu.  Whatever the reason, I find my photos in China tend to look best when I lose the color.

All of a sudden the details come out, the little things about China that tend to get lost in the dullness of everyday come through more sharply.

For instance, the photo above.  Technically this is a cheat photo in my “photo a day” quest.  I took it over a week ago, but found it again today while I was doing some editing.

With the color, this is just a dirty street and a woman and a car.  Without the color, it tells you a little something more about China.

To the left of the woman is the sales building for some of the most expensive apartment buildings in Chengdu. Let’s put it this way: our condo in a very desirable D.C. neighborhood sold for roughly the same price per square foot last year as these places do in Chengdu.

To the right is a public toilet facility.

On the road is an example of the sort of S.U.V. that the middle to upper class Chinese family aspires to.  I think they get a little bit bigger, a little closer in girth to their American SUV cousins every month.

On the road is also a woman.  Maybe she walks on the road because the sidewalks are too slippery with refuse in some places.  Maybe she, like me, thinks the raised bumps and grooves installed, ostensibly for the blind are just too hard to walk on with our tiny feet (its tough to balance-especially in the rain).  Nevermind that there are no blind people, no handicapped people, no one marginally different from average out on the streets of Chengdu.

Things get blurry just a mere 50 feet ahead of this woman.  That’s because the smog is already too thick at 9am.  Though the last few days here in Chengdu have been sunny and relatively clear, this photo represents a more typical Chengdu day.

Then again, as striking as photos are in black and white during the day, at night, you can get some really nice color.  As in this one from tonight’s post-dinner saunter.  It’s as if the city really comes alive after dark.  There are people selling fruit out of giant baskets, kids hanging around in the streets, pirated dvd’s for sale outside the Hongqi Chain Store…

Some days, like today, China wins.  The installation of satellite TV destroys your internet connection, your driver’s license and parking permits don’t come through, the government wants to charge you 900 extra kuai to stay in the country, and they refuse to cook your mother-in-law’s burger medium-rare for fear of killing her with some sort of beef-born parasite (a gesture that is highly, highly appreciated by the way).

But in the end, even when we lose, we win too.  Because even with the satellite tv mix ups, the driver’s license delays, the weird rules, and the inability to get a good burger, the good far outweighs the bad.  The good being the great mountain views, the adorable toddlers that I oggle at everyday, the nice people, the amazing sichuan food, the general ease with which life passes in this laid-back city and so much more.

Black and white might make for better photographs, but with a little bit of wandering, a little bit of venturing out after dark, there is still plenty of color to be had here in Chengdu


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