I’m in Travel + Leisure Mag (June 17)

Good news!…

I’m in Travel + Leisure June 2017.

A couple of months ago one of their researchers contacted me about Shenzhen photos. Last year I spent a day in Shenzhen’s contemporary art centre; OCT Loft. I really love the ‘former industrial building’ becomes ‘contemporary art centre’ thing.

I think re-purposed industrial buildings hold a certain artistic commentary on life and hence provide an interesting contextual background to contemporary art.

I often enjoy art that makes surprising / interesting / thoughtful statements on life, a big part of which is work.

If you are into this kind of thing I also recommend Moganshan 50 in Shanghai. There is also Tate Modern in London, even if the art on display isn’t great, the former power station is a delight.

If you can find a copy of Travel + Leisure I recommend picking it up, the article on Shenzhen is fascinating, – I wish I had the author’s knowledge before I went.

This inspires me to research my destinations better in future, think like a journalist!

It’s tough to be commercially successful with travel photography – I am so delighted to get into a major magazine!

It’s especially awesome to contribute photographs to an article that focuses on the development of creative and artistic culture in modern China.

Hong Kong and 2 Photos, 2 Years Apart.

I came back to Hong Kong. The last time I was here was early 2014.

When I was here last time I took this picture from Kowloon of a Junk passing by. That’s Hong Kong Island in the background.

Now that I’m back I found that Hong Kong hasn’t changed too much.

In more or less the same location, but from a different angle and earlier in the day look what I saw:

I find myself stunned by the beauty of some of the views of the Hong Kong landscape. It’s a city of contrast though, the pure beauty of the landscapes belies some of the cramped, dirty, smelly streets crammed with people. Be ready for it if you visit.

 

Life’s Changing Perspective

Yesterday afternoon I was browsing wordpress and I saw the discover challenge  to post about perspective. Coincidently earlier that morning I took a photo of two work men from an unusual top down perspective as they sat on a truck cab.

However the visual perspective wasn’t what made me connect this with the wordpress challenge. But rather the image reminded me of my childhood. For a time my dad drove his own scrap metal truck similar to that in the picture.

I remember in those days I looked up in wonder at the big world; where even the simplest things seemed larger than life:

  • One of my dad’s friends could eat a packet of crisps in one handful!
  • An old farm we passed might reveal a collection of cool old cars
  • The world was huge by my dad seemed so strong and my mum so kind, nothing bad could ever happen.

Twenty seven years later; after study, work, travel and the countless interactions with people from all walks of life, my perspective has changed so much that the younger version of myself could never have imagined where I would be, what I would be thinking about or perhaps more interestingly how I would think.

All the things that happen as we grow up give us so much knowledge, and so much understanding. Our perspective can’t help but drastically change.

Is a potential price of this a loss of wonder?

New knowledge and experiences can help retain a sense of wonder in life. One thing that I try to do is occasionaly think outside the box. I might read a new type of magazine/book, visit a new place, learn a new sport/art/other skill.

As we grow and learnand our perspective changes we also run the risk of narrowing our viewpoint.

That may come down to the way we operate. If we have a bad experience with a certain type of food, people, place we form a negative viewpoint. Sometimes we need to be conscious of this and force ourselves to revisit our perceptions  to check if they are accurate.

The discover challenge on perspective reminds me to look for wonder. It also reminds me to check my negative opinions.

Now, time to go and have some fun with the big world!

Christmas in London – part II

I survived Christmas alone in London.

Actually; and I feel guilty saying this, it was delightful.

I missed my mum; it is a time when everyone is talking about family. However thanks to yoga, meditation, reading and learning I was able to keep a reasonable perspective. It’s just another day, I saw my mum recently, and I will see her again soon. The other matter; a girlfriend, hopefully I will meet someone I match with soon.

After I finished work at my client on Christmas eve I went to Wholefoods and treated myself to something fancy; sourdough fruit bread (ridiculous price), this was the first part of my plan for an awesome solo Christmas day. So next morning it came to be that I was lying cosily in bed watching a Xmas short animation with toasted fruit bread and coffee. Oh and my mum had sent me a gift to unwrap; a book, and I also had a box I sent myself; a new skateboard (uhm I am in my thirties in case you were wondering).

Afterwards I packed my camera, book and sketchpad. No transport in London on xmas day, but there are hire bikes. So I took one of those from my shared place in east London and went to holborn where part two of my plan went into action; to visit The Hoxton – a really cool hotel and have some food / coffee and a beer.

So technically I even exercised!

The rest of my day was spent walking, taking photos and enjoying a couple of beers on my part walk part hire cycle pub crawl around London.

It was rainy, but that’s cool, rain can give a nice shine to city streets as the sun goes down.

This was kind of enjoyable; way less stress than roasting a turkey and preparing all the trimmings.

First photos – covent garden:

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Regent street; where I was inspired to jump into traffic and crouch down to get the rear lights and side profile of an audi r8 in front of the xmas lights. The regent street lights this year didn’t look that great in focus, but came out really nice in soft focus:

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Just behind regent street, the famous carnaby street which always has beautiful decorations:

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As I was walking around Carnaby a lovely couple asked me to take their photos with their camera, I asked them if I could take a few with my own camera and they came out quite well:

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And on boxing day I got a few shots of the southbank:

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As I took photos and drank a couple of beers I felt really good. I just wish I could have shared the day with my mum and a special girl. But then, that’s an opportunity for next year. Hopefully I can arrange something like this together with people in the future.

It’s been a few months since I started this blog on WordPress and I had a bit of a break after the poetry challenge on writing 201 at the beginning. I’d really like to thank the WordPress community for their likes and comments and support so far.

I hope everyone here had a great Christmas day and that you are all enjoying your holidays.

Walk Around Shoreditch

I’d love to take you on a ‘blog photo walk’ around Shoreditch; my favourite parts of East London.

Historically a poor area, with low rents it became a hub for creatives. As can happen the art scene attracted others, prices started to rise and some have been priced out. But, to my mind, it now has a good mix of artists and creature comforts; good apartments, cafes, bars, restaurants, independent galleries and fashion stores.

I say Shoreditch, but I really mean a larger area which includes the north end of Brick Lane, Shoreditch High Street, Hoxton and Dalston.

One of the main attractions in Shoreditch is the street art. The following picture showing the girl with the apple is by the French street artist Alice Pasquini:

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I was lucky enough to capture a local artist at work, the following pictures is saki & bitches:

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There’s a lot of street art to be found hidden away on side streets and next to parks. Maps can be found online and some locals operate street art tours.

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The character on the green wall below at eastern curve garden in Dalston and is by a famous artist called Stik, you may have seen his book:

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The art below can no longer be seen now that this area has been developed into new apartments:

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In addition to street art, there are a lot of galleries and studios around Shoreditch. A lot of local businesses are to do with illustration, animation, graphic design etc. If you walk around you can see into some pretty nice offices.

Myartinvest pictured below is a concept gallery where you can buy a share in artwork. Good idea if you can’t afford to buy whole artwork yourself but want to get involved.

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A central point in shoreditch is the overground station. That’s where Boxpark is situated; a container complex with small stores and places to eat. It hosts a mix of smaller independent brands and larger brands trying to catch some of the creative market.

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There are some quite cool places in east London, take for example Shoreditch House – a members club / hotel in a converted warehouse opposite Boxpark. The motorbike in the picture is in front of Cowshed Spa which is in Shoreditch House.

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There are lot’s of good places for coffee / cake and chill out in the area. A couple that I like are Fix Coffee and Close-Up Cinema / cafe both pictured.

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I don’t have pictures of all my favourite cafes and bars, but here is a list of places to check out:

– Jaguar Shoes Collective
– Attendant
– The Hoxton
– Ace Hotel
– Cream
– Barbour & Parlour
– Brick Lane Coffee
– Strongroom

It changes pretty quickly though, so expect new places to pop up and old favourites to close.

Around shoreditch and further up towards Dalston you also have vintage fashion stores and vinyl stores such as Love Vinyl and Blitz

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Cafe, bar and art aside one of the best things about this part of London is the traditional architecture; warehouses and town houses that can be found around brick lane for example.

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December 2016 Update – Additional Photos From 2016

Rivington street; one of the streets with a lot of art and cafes:

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A household goods store with a lovely tiled exterior:

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An extremely expensive chocolate shop, but with a beautiful window message:

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Some more street art by Stik on Rivington street:

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A beautiful sky above Boxpark:

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One of the charismatic local Bar Staff at Translate:

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Inside the pretty well known Cargo nightclub on Rivington Street:

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Jaguar Shoes Collective; my favourite bar which doubles as an art gallery and is disguised as an import fashion store:

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Do people buy their bikes to match up with local street art:

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Another Boxpark pic featuring the new Routemaster bus:

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The pizza often at the recently opened Homeslice. Best single slices of Pizza ever!

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Boxpark during Olympic celebrations.

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One of the many custom bikes you can see around Shoreditch

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Recently closed; Brick Lane Coffee, was one of the well known coffee shops around Brick Lane area, but the owners now run Jonestown Coffee just around the corner (I did the photos on their website!).

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That’s it for now.

Moganshan 50 Shanghai (M50)

I had a dream-like three weeks in shanghai earlier this year. I want to introduce you to m50; the contemperary art district.

Shanghai itself is a bit of an enigma, it’s China of course; but also very much it’s own place. The history is fascinating and provides background perspective on the modern day relationship between east and west. Shanghai also has it’s own dialect and other Chinese people may consider the Shanghainese as overly proud.

It’s a city of old and new, a city of hope, and also a city of hope lost. There is division of rich and poor that reminded me of my time in Russia years before. In big Chinese cities there is a context of rich people becoming super rich on massive growth vs. poor people arriving in the cities with nothing but hope. But there is a sense that anything can happen, although perhaps only to the lucky or entreprenuerial few.

When I was there I stayed in a traditional lilong / longdang apartment for two weeks and a more modern apartment in the french concession for one week. I like to avoid hotels or restaurants with other foreigners and stay local and eat local.

When I was in Shanghai I read the excellent five star billionaire by tash aw; which further lost me in the feeling of the city. I can’t recommend enough reading novels set in a place you are visiting.

There is so much to say about Shanghai, but I want to talk about Moganshan 50 in this post. It’s abbrievated as m50 and is the site of a former mill that is now a contemperary art district. It was perhaps my favourite place to visit.

The mill has been converted into a lot of individual galleries (over a hundred?). The art varies from traditional oil paintings to fairly ‘out there’ stuff. In addition to the galleries there are working art studios; you can see some artists at work. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph any of the art itself.

When I was there I really wanted to buy some artwork; I had my eye on a few peices, but I just couldn’t afford it.

One of the best things about m50 is the aged industrial architecture, which I always thinks goes so well with art; particularly contemporary. This is why I like Tate Modern in London, the turbine hall is breathtaking; even if a lot of the art misses the mark to my taste.

There is also an excellent cafe at m50 – with wonton in soup to die for, not the main cafe at the entrance, just nearby at the side. It’s also an art bookstore.

If you visit Shanghai please be sure to go and have a look around m50.

Tokyo Rail

Clean, shiny steel and birdsong soft and sweet. A place full of people, some fast asleep, where could I be?

The Tokyo metro, or one of the Japan Rail (JR) lines in the city. Rail is something of a cultural passion in Japan. It’s a huge part of day to day life in Tokyo; the most convenient way to travel around the huge city.

A microcosm of Japanese values it’s impeccably well managed. Almost always on time and masterfully maintained.

Perhaps the most famous image of Tokyo’s hectic rush hour is the attendants shoving and squeezing people onto already packed trains. Faces can be seen seen squashed against windows and doors. It does happen, but I never take part; I tend to wait out the rush hour in a cafe.

It’s quite a different story in the UK; when our aging underground stations become overcrowded the station attendants will temporary close entry.

A reflection of a prioritisation of efficiency over comfort in Japanese culture. As a Japanese friend commented, “it is very important get to work on time in Japan”.

Other thoughts of Tokyo rail; complex rail maps, female only carriages, cleanliness and modern technology. And less well known; beautiful visual design and ever helpful staff.

An example; the Japan Rail map of Tokyo and the surrounding area at the station in Shibuya – complex and beautiful.

Note the look and feel of the ticket machines. It’s modern, but yet retro. A metallic feel with plenty of prominent buttons and slots. They say to me, “I am proud to be ticket machines”, they don’t attempt streamline themselves into the human world.

It’s not only the ticket machines that feel metallic, trains are finished in polished metal; always very clean. It’s especially noticable at one of Tokyo’s many railway crossings. When you wait on trains to pass you can see the trains are clean from the ground up.

Why so clean? – Japanese people take a lot of pride in their work. I think this is in part the healthy desire to do a good job. And in part it’s the story of a society with strongly enforced cultural values.

Take for example the Japanese word, “Ganbatte” (がんばって) which means roughly “do your best”. You hear this a lot in Japan. For example if someone is preparing for an exam, has an interview, is entering a competition you might say “Ganbatte”. It’s telling in English that we don’t have a word like this and you rarely hear people say “do your best”. When I think about it, we would use, “good luck”. Do we subconsciouly place emphasis on luck vs. hard work? I heard it said that your true nation is your language.

Let’s be frank, trains in UK are disgustingly dirty, if you are on the london underground just touch the outside with a finger – it’ll come away black.

They play birdsong in some of the stations in Tokyo. On one trip I regularly used the Toei Oedo line. I would always enjoy listening to the birdsong in the background. I don’t think I consciously noticed it at first, but at some point I realised it contributed to a joyful and relaxed feeling.

A friend tells me it’s used as a warning sound for blind people. Regardless of the true purpose it has a calming effect.

It reminds me that concrete cities and high technology are not our natural environment. Perhaps we suffer from a build up of background stress from our surroundings. These small touches can bring some peace and make life a little more comfortable.

When trains arrive or depart in Japan you get jingles, tunes and tones. It makes you aware but doesn’t cause any panic or stress. In the UK we get alarms and buzzers. It makes me feel tired.

Have you ever hear of ‘cotton wool Britian’ – we have a love affair with health and safety. Visual and audio warnings are everywhere. Do they reduce accidents – I don’t know, but they certainly contribute to a feeling of constant threat.

Even though Tokyo is a huge modern city packed with people and technology, I feel like it caters to the human need for comfort and relaxation better than many others.

Perhaps the most popular rail line; the Yamanote line. It’s the circular route that you can see in the centre of the rail map. It stops at many famous places. The green colours of the Yamanote trains and the little touches of green on the clocks, ticket machines etc. make a beautiful theme.

Tokyo is a city full of amazing vibrant colours, which really pop in photography.

The Yamanote line is a case in diversity. The stations it stops at include everything from traditional temples to electronic and business districts. A wide variety of people can be found on the platforms and trains; tourists, salary men/lady, school pupils, fashionistas and even Elvis style rockers.

What a strange city. In some ways it could be considered monocultural as Japan still remains relatively closed to foreigners. But within it’s Japanese culture there is a large diversity. Perhaps driven from the need to be different.

I expected Japanese commuters to play Nintendo or Sony or be glued to their mobile phone, but it’s not completely the case. A big surprise was the popularity of books. Tokyo has big bookstores in all the main areas. And even has some cool concept stores such as the Tsutaya at the fashionable Daikanyama.

I started to realise how important literature and poetry is in Japan. I recently discovered one of the most famous concise forms of poetry ‘haiku’ comes from Japan. And only yesterday while finishing the very good book, “strange weather over tokyo” I discovered the following poem:


In loneliness I have drifted this long way, alone.
My torn and shabby robe could not keep out the cold.
And tonight the sky was so clear
it made my heart ache all the more.
– Seihaku Irako

A little of topic, but worth sharing. So a lot’s of people read on the trains. Japan has a slightly smaller format for novels. They look really cute and easily go in your pocket.

Japan is obsessed with cuteness – a topic close to my heart.

Coming into or exiting a station in Tokyo is generally a pleasure. The stations are super clear, they always seem to be staffed by helpful attendants and every station I have been to has a clean toilet! Just the thing when late night asahi and sake are common features.

You can’t escape from the rail in Tokyo, everywhere you look it’s their to see.

Life in Japan can be difficult with long working hours. It’s important the trains are clean and on time. One thing that will amaze any visitor is how quickly and easily japanese people can fall asleep on the train. If you fall asleep on a train here in the UK it’s likely someone is going to steal all your stuff.

Tokyo is very safe. Theft is virtually non existent. You can leave your bicycle unlocked at the park entrances, you can leave you Macbook, phone and wallet unattended in a coffee shop.

The only complaint I have to say is when I’m stranded after 1am, then it’s time to find a late night club, a 24hr restaurant or a manga cafe and wait it out with all the other partiers for the 1st train the next day.

But that’s a small complaint.