...I know that this is a strange way to start a picture story, out of focus and all. But I chased these girls on this motorcycle taxi shooting frames with one hand and steering my scooter with the other. But when I looked at this shot I realized I could not have painted a better picture of contemporary China; which is a blur, filled with color and motion, fair skinned beauties and weather worn mototaxi drivers, stainless steel clean hotels and indelibley stained village cafe's...transitioning from the opaque tones of the communist regime to the bright colors of free enterprise.

 

...Ah... the confidence of youth! You may never meet people more convinced of themselves than young Chinese. But I live here and I know the truth. These kids have been brought up by parents who have never had any tactile relationship with the world outside China, as were their parents before them and their parents before them... going back nearly 50 centuries! Now, look at these two again. They are actually country hicks all dressed up and come to the live in the city. They don't know what an electron is, nor what a nebula is or the fall of Rome or what Columbus did in 1492. But they know where their next meal is coming from and how to have fun. The boy was taught from an early age that he was exceptional (just because he was a boy) and the girl who was taught that she would marry "up". So he is in control and she is absolutely content about that. Now, look again. They are pure in their subjective perception of their reality. In fact, there is probably some sympathy behind their eyes. Sympathy for me because I am not them,,, I am not
Chinese.



...
And then the "older" Chinese couple. Not too cool for school but rather more toward salt of the earth with a new slant. They know the old China where the future held no mystery. They see the new China erupting around them. And they smell a good thing. So he's a contractor of sorts and she tends their small store, washes clothes with well water and scrubs them against the concrete sidewalk, watches a half dead TV in between chores (its good enough) grows a little garden and cleans apartments on the side. How do I know all of this? They are my downstairs neighbors and the apartment she cleans is mine.


...The traditional mode of transportation. The Beijing Bicycle. Springer front end, hard tail steel frame and a rack that can carry a water buffalo! In this case it is carrying Mom and baby. Real normal stuff. And look at her. There is absolutely no concern that she may be precariously balanced. I have been collecting photos of people riding side saddle on the back of bikes and motorcycles. In the case of the bike; he begins to peddle, holding the baby she steps quickly almost to a run and in one motion hops onto the bike. And away they go! I am always as impressed with their balance as they are unimpressed.


...
The little boys. Happy to be alive! Lost in the moment with a deepening conviction that to be a little boy is a good thing. They are in their school uniforms. But in China, school is not a right or a compulsory thing. It is a transaction. No money no education. None. So parents scrounge what ever pennies they can and save, save, save to get the money for their kids to have some education. Still, I get a feeling that these guys are going to have a better chance for the good life than their parents. And certainly a much better chance then their grandparents.


...
And the big boys (and girls) equally lost in the moment. They are all yelling "jia yao! jia yao!!" Maybe it means "pull harder!" I am not yet sure. But this is a tug-of-war contest. And, they won! You know, these folks work in a factory making windsurfing, paragliding, kiteboarding and other real fun stuff. But it doesn't mean a thing. The thrill they get from this simple sport is as strong as the rope they are tugging on. I am not sure why I like that so much. But this quality endears them to me.

...And the young beautiful, sweet, innocent girl emerging into womanhood where her tradatonial duty will be to produce more Chinese. The one kid per family thing you hear about. I gotta tell you. It ain't true! This girl comes from a family of 3 kids. Across the steeet that family also has 3 kids and in the last 3 years!! But for now, she is sweet and innocent with a future of undertimed possibilities...


...
And the lonely girl. Some how a thread of religious conviction remains loosely woven in the remants of the shredded fabric of pre-communist China. And some people take it to heart. So what is this girl praying for? You can be sure it is first for her family and a way for her to better help them. And then for the normal things, love, money, an easier life. The next day she caught a ride to the big city with my girlfriend and I. There she will resume her life as a hotel girl and sell the only service she has that is of some value. For now that is the best way she can help her family. There is a catch in my throat as I type. For the disparity between fundamentally moral people compelled by cultural and socio-economic pressure to do fundamentally immoral things is common. This girl could use the break she is praying for. But, outside of a free ride to the bus station and a gift of a few hundred RMB (Chinese money) she probably will not get it.


...
Lastly, this would be a disheartening shot anywhere in the West but not in China. Lookie': this is the People's Road and open to all comers. This fellow in the foreground is shoving himself down the street. He evokes no sympathy nor expects any. He has all of his stuff piled on his cart and packed in his busted suitcase. His wheels are but bearings and his concentration is focused. He is on his way from point A to point B, neither of which I can imagine. I have seen a lot of disabled guys pushing themselves around different towns but never down a main street with all their belongings. So I turned around and went back to get a shot. I felt guilty photographing a helpless person, but I did it anyway. He saw me and began laughing. He was grinning and carrying on in Chinese. I pulled out a 10 dollar bill and gave it to him. He liked that and was all thumbs up. Although I towered over him I felt small. His good nature came from within and there was little that I had that he required. As I drove away, in my rear view mirror I glanced him resuming his trudge as if we had never encountered one another. I think he taught me to more earnestly count my blessings.