Sunday, April 5, 2009

A trip to the city...

A San Francisco travelogue

Having read that there was a camera swap meet in south San Francisco Saturday, I decided to take the BART to town which is really the best way to travel to the city. I did plenty of walking and savored the sights and sounds and spent a good hour at the swap meet. I struck up a nice conversation with an old school commercial photographer on the Mamiya C33 twin lens reflex medium format camera he was selling. We chatted, mostly with me picking his brain...and wishing the good old days had not gone away so quickly. We talked about how producing beautiful photography is still about having your techniques solidly grounded, and knowing your wares....having the eyes for the light.....and that his very first used medium format camera he bought from some guy when he first started and how he produced great pictures with it. Later that morning, I walked to the waterfront of Embarcadero. As it was a Saturday, a bustling outdoor market was in session. Crowded with locals and tourists alike, it was at times elbow to elbow walking room. I did the quick tour, and some photography and soon found myself checking out the artists selling their work under big white tents in the park away from the crowd.

"Who is this man?"

I soon struck up another long conversation with an artist whose attire was rather nomadic, who interestingly has a Chinese sounding last name but grew up in Nicaragua as I later learned (not surprisingly, as many set sail to seek work and fortune some two hundred years ago and many went to South America). A photographer who spends a few months each year outside the country in search of inspiration, his works of brightly colored weathered buildings from Cuba to Nicaragua and Rajistan first caught my attention. There was also the image of two canoes in the morning light with the Bay Bridge in the background still shrouded in fog. Then as I looked to the floor, there was a photo of a young boy cloaked in red sitting on the floor of a monastery. He was holding up a long stick, pointing to a chalk board of sentences as if to repeat after his master. On the left, soft light flooded the dim room casting a small shadow on the boy sitting cross legged on the floor. The image stopped me in my track. I lingered on and looked at it for a long time. My mind wondered back to Asia, to the people and the colorful cultures, to the villages. Sometimes an image speaks to the soul and it takes one on a journey....may be because I grew up in Asia and had traveled to many corners of Southeast Asia where life is simple and yet plentiful...and learning and acquiring knowledge is what every parent wants for their child. It was the very poignant scene that moved the photographer and caught his eyes as he took that one and only shot.

"I am the proud owner of the photo - getting it dark wood with border"

It no longer matters if I took any photo at all with my camera. The sights and sounds of the San Francisco waterfront, the hustle and bustle had suddenly taken a back seat without my knowing.

Sometimes a photograph speaks to one's soul and it is that simple. I could not help but remembering the works of Dorothea Lange, her photographs of the "Migrant Woman" and the "Man in the Bread Line". Humanity and the ability to connect and feel is such a rare commodity in today's material world, I was so very glad to know it has not completely gone away.

"The artist's gallery along the San Francisco waterfront"

As I sat on the BART train heading back to Fremont and San Jose, I was deep in my thoughts. It was a good thought. I had bought the photograph from the artist whom I had gotten to know and we made some plans for collaborative projects in the coming weeks, stay tuned......

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