Friday, November 02, 2007

Scene from an alley


Wired
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The texture of a place is what sticks in my mind long after I've returned home. I try to take pictures that remind me of what I felt like not when I was standing in front of some tourist trap, but of how I felt when I stood on a typical sidewalk like a typical local.

I grew up in Montreal, which has long had the reputation of being a cosmopolitan, tourist-friendly town. Indeed, the downtown core is on any given day jammed with folks from all over, snapping pictures and wandering from one must-see landmark to another.

But I never saw any of these places. I didn't take the elevator to the top of the Olympic Stadium tower. I didn't shoot the Lachine Rapids in a jet boat, nor did I take a tour bus to the top of Mount Royal. It dawned on me that a resident's view of the city always seemed to be very different than a tourist's perspective. And then it hit me: no one ever seems to take the everyday-resident kind of pictures.

Which is a little sad, because they miss scenes like this, where the fabric of the life of a city and its people is laid bare by a quick glimpse down an alley, at tired stucco walls that have seen their share of everyday, unflashy, routine life. The story of these walls is infinitely more interesting than that told by bright, shiny so-called attraction.

Your turn: How does this image make you feel?

One more theme: This photo continues a theme I've been revisiting somewhat infrequently. Other entries are here, here, here, here and here. I hope you like 'em.

17 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

It reminds of Old Delhi. Falling apart but still with a lot of character. It seems Shanghai and Delhi have much in common.

Too many people...

Michele always sends me here to look at the pictures and ponder over the injustice of it all...

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I really like your photos, Carmi. You always have good composition and depth.

Anyways, this reminds me a bit of when I was stationed near Istanbul. If you go tour Istanbul, you see the touristy stuff like the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. Most of my touring was done with the Istanbul Hash House Harriers, so it involved running through a lot of back alleys, visiting seedier sights, and running past the whore houses. If you're going to visit another city, hook up with the hashers and see something you won't see on any other tour.

Michele sent me.

ribbiticus said...

there are a lot of similar scenes here in my country. so much so that sometimes you find yourself wondering how it seems to have desensitized a lot of us.

what your photo evokes in me is a feeling of both helplessness and hope. the former because if you know the history of my country, then you know that we have a culture of corruption. regardless of how many idealistic leaders come forth, we seem to forget about learning from the past. i still have hope, though, because if you look closely at the faces inside those ramshackle facades, most of them are still smiling at the end of the day. they do not let poverty stand in the way of their finding happiness in the littlest things.

thanks for stopping by, old friend! ;)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

*snob alert*

It makes me sad that these people have to live in such disrepair.

It's hard for me to force myself out of that mindset and to think that appearance isn't all that matters, nor is affluence. That what truly matters is the quality of the lives lived within. That's something that money often ruins.

Tracey said...

I love these kind of pictures. I'm like you. I like to capture the life, the people, the streets of anywhere I go.

The picture makes me feel thankful for my condo.

kenju said...

Whenever I travel, I like seeing all the normal tourist sites, of course, but I also like seeing back alleys and side streets - so I get a flavor of the real city and how the residents live. You want that too, I see.

Awareness said...

My first thought was of Istanbul as well. I was there years ago and stayed with a woman who had befriended myself and two friends. She took us home to her family in an area called Fatih, which turned out to be very poor and rundown. But behind the tired looking walls? We found love and the warmest welcome I have ever felt.....then and now.

One never knows.......

So....how do I feel when I look at your wonderful picture Carmi? Curious......as always.

thinking of you this weekend as I know it's a big one for Zach and your family. cheers.

Sarch said...

I don't know Carmi....it makes me feel different things.

I guess a thought that comes to mind is how strong the day to day is. A scene like this reminds me that the day to day, run of the mill framework of our lives isn't always flashy or photogenic...but it is strong, steadfast and dependable.

Carolyn said...

I immediately felt tired and somewhat disjointed upon seeing it. I'm not sure why. I do know I wasn't prepared to connect with the facade of the building quite that way :)

Snaggle Tooth said...

Crowded, busy. So many lines, to so many people-
I could hang up my clothes there...

Catherine said...

I enjoy looking at my own city as a tourist might - but the everyday scenes are interesting, too. And close-up details can reveal an entirely new view.
I did enjoy when we were travelling, looking at some of the little places that weren't in the guidebook, that we stopped at just because that was how far we got that day, or because an ancestor had come from there.

Jerry in Tampa said...

It looks depressing....
Awesome blog!

Hello, Michele sent me. And I will be back!

Mike Davis said...

Hi Carmi,

The picture reminds me of the worker-populated areas of Dubai - the places where the poor lived hidden from view behind the massive glass shopfront of the developing nation.

Hi from Michele - I really have to stop relying on her to bring me here!

BreadBox said...

Hmmmm.... Michele sent me to see the new post, and I can't find it...

I'll check back soon..
N.

Jessica Foster said...

It makes me think of my niece Sadie. Born in China. Abondoned in a basket, Left in a busy market. I think of the absolute heartache of her birthparents, how they had no choice. How they left her in such a busy place, where they knew she'd be found, taken care of, loved.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see photos like this, I get to wondering where the busy mish mash of wires go. Electrical lights. A telephone. Some fancy peice of modern electronics that is the complete opposite to the conduits feeding them. Who ran them? Why didn't they make it neat? What code violations can I spot. Why the flying hots, in one, but not another? The irregular insulator spacing. The hands that installed them. The time and elements they have sustained... Who is on the recieving end? How are they using it? Questions questions questions. I want to see more.

I'm glad I wrote this before reading the rest of the comments. I do not see poverty in here. Sure, somebody may be 'stealing' power, but, is it a matter of convienience, or a matter of survival? More questions...

Alex.

Billy said...

The scene makes me feel that there are too many places like this that people would rather not think about. I then thought of New Orleans, a city about forty miles from me and the city where I lived for 40 years before moving a while back. It reminded me of the horrid condition of thousands of similar buildings.