when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

From the BXP photo archive: China, 1984-85; Taiwan, 1986; Thailand with Willem Dafoe, 1987

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Train station between Beijing and Xian, 1984-85, PR China

Train station between Beijing and Xian, 1984-85, PR China

When I was in college, I spent a semester, August 1984 to January 1985, at Nanjing University in the People’s Republic of China. I was there just long enough to suffer extreme cultural dislocation, be hospitalized with bacillary dysentery, and travel to places I promised myself I’d return to—Shanghai, Wuxi, Beijing, Xian. That’s also when and where I started taking photographs.

Train station between Beijing and Xian, 1984-85, PR China

Train station between Beijing and Xian, 1984-85, PR China

I didn’t have a lot of technical skill or discipline. I photographed things that were unfamiliar to me, amusing, odd, exciting. I was collecting moments I didn’t understand that I hoped to decipher later.

In Taiwan and Thailand, I made photographs with a Yashica 2 1/4 camera my friend Flash had given me. Before the Yashica, though, he’d given me something more valuable: a template for successful photography—his own disciplined process. It began with careful exposure in the field and flowed into methodical, consistent darkroom work. More consistency equaled better results, less disappointment. The camera itself, a clunky, no-frills box of a machine, forced me to slow down. I couldn’t just grab for pictures. I had to make them. Something to remember in our rapid-fire digital age.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Taipei, Taiwan 1986

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Taipei, Taiwan 1986

Willem Dafoe and Amanda Pays on location in Bangkok filming Off Limits (Saigon), Spring 1987

Willem Dafoe and Amanda Pays on location in Bangkok filming Off Limits (Saigon), Spring 1987

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Written by bxpnyc

2013/05/19 at 17:29

Posted in Uncategorized

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