Shooting for city’s hidden treasures

By Yang Fan Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-9 18:38:01

Photography club seeks out sights that often go unseen

It was 4 am on the Bund. Darrell Lew and his friends were busy prepping their camera kits for the sunrise, the "big moment" of a day they planned to spend wandering the streets of Shanghai, looking for scenes to shoot, Lew said.

The tour was organized by Shanghai Exposed, a photography group that holds regular events like street photo shoots and meet-ups at members' apartments, where they discuss photography and swap images.

The group's predecessor was the Racquet Club Photo Group, founded in 2007 by an American, Bonnie Ferguson, along with several residents of Minhang district in an effort to capture the scenes in and around Shanghai and create a community of photographers.

In 2008, Ferguson moved back to the US with her family, and Lois Webb, from the UK, took over the club. The group later changed its name to Shanghai Exposed.

During their shoots on the street, members meet at a predetermined point, then stroll along a given route for a couple of hours. They end their outings with a drink at a local café. They are left to decide themselves what to shoot, though the club occasionally sets a theme to give the less confident members something to focus on. Past themes have included slumbering, demolition and shikumen - the traditional stone gate houses that Shanghai is famous for.

"Through walking the streets with the group, I have found the confidence to approach strangers," Webb said. "It's a safe city to wander through with few people challenging you, and this has given me confidence to search for the images I want, rather than take a snapshot quickly. It also taught me to always be ready with a camera."

Sleepy lanes, serene parks, busy markets and bustling factories all feature on the itinerary of these shutterbugs. "Shanghai to me is amazing how the old houses can live next to the shiny new skyscrapers. I enjoy taking the side-by-side images and the progression of the city and its people," Webb said.

Tarra Hollis went to Yunnan Province earlier this year with fellow Shanghai Exposed members to shoot in the Baoshan Stone Village, a community perched atop a huge mushroom-shaped rock. As they wound their way through the village's narrow rural alleyways, a local woman invited them into her home, which was simply furnished. Yet when the hostess opened her back door, it looked out on a "million dollar view" of the valleys and lakes of the surrounding landscape, Hollis said she and her friends couldn't have been more thrilled with their discovery.

The group prefers to explore off the beaten track. They like to venture through the city's back streets to see the old neighborhoods, or take trips to wander through the secluded alleys of the nearby watertowns of Zhujiajiao, Fengjing and Xitang. "Being in the group gives members some courage to go places that they may not normally go alone," said Gerry Abbott, who has been a member for about 15 years.

Before moving to Shanghai from Washington DC, Abbott almost exclusively pointed his lens at birds. "Birds lead interesting lives, in that they dive, perch, squabble, court, build nests and raise their young," he said. Yet he found few opportunities to photograph birds in Shanghai. He also found it was difficult to reach some distant parts of the city.

Joining the group has helped him immerse himself in a city teeming with vitality "Bird photography has many similarities with Shanghai street photography in that it is all about life," he said.

Members freely share knowledge with each other. During their regular meetings, members present a few recent images along with some technical information on photography gear, techniques and software.

"There is always something to learn," Abbott said. "It's also interesting to see what and how other members are capturing certain scenes and events. Most rewarding is the friendships and conversations among the members."

The purpose of the group is to be social, educational and help people get more familiar with life in and surrounding Shanghai. It grows through word and mouth with roughly 100 members from across the world, including Germany, France, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, Mexico, the US, the UK and China.

The club doesn't have an age limit. It is open to photographers of all levels of skill and experience, Lew said. The only admission requirement is a passion for both photography and exploring the vibrant life of Shanghai.

Members of the local photography club Shanghai Exposed gather regularly to shoot sites around the city and China, such as the Bund.


Members of the local photography club Shanghai Exposed gather regularly to shoot sites around the city and China, such as a local home in Baoshan Stone Village in Yunnan Province. Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Exposed


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