一、二、三:茄子! One, two, three: Smile!



We have this stereotypical thinking that all Asians love to take pictures, all the time, everywhere, of food, of buildings, of people. Well, it’s true, but I wouldn’t say that is strictly reserved for Asians… We all do it. Me included.

One thing used to freak me out for a while in China: Why do strangers want to take pictures of me? Yes, I am blonde, and a foreigner, maybe totally different looking from the average Chinese girl, but still.

I have got used to it, and couldn’t care less if a random stranger takes out his newest iPhone to snap a shot of me. Most people don’t mean bad, and if you smile at them, you can even start a conversation.

Today I decided to turn the game around. So I went out to the most populous place (or one of the most) in Shanghai: the Bund. You can find all sorts of people there! It’s amazing and it was an exciting experience.

I think photography is a powerful tool for showing what the world is like on a human level. It was my first time going out and taking pictures of strangers on purpose. I figured there are two ways of doing it: whether asking first and shooting last, or shooting first, and asking last (or never, depending on the situation).

The thing is if I see something interesting happening that might change if I stop to introduce myself, especially in China, I just snap a few frames and talk to the people later.

Today I ended up having a bunch of interesting conversations with all kinds of different people from different places in China. My goal was to take pictures of the Chinese people around me, but being a blonde foreign girl as I am… people still ended up taking more pictures of me and I must have ended up in quite a few photo albums.

It’s fine, though. And it is an exhilarating experience to just talk up strangers, especially in Chinese. A great language and social practice.

Here are a few shots from today. There are a few random ones which were just so peculiar that I couldn’t walk past, but also didn’t dare to ask for a direct shot (though they were screaming to be photographed!).

 

 

Did you ever go out and took pictures of totally strangers? Or did people you have never met taken pictures of you?

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

11 thoughts on “一、二、三:茄子! One, two, three: Smile!

  1. Besides taking pictures in China I also take a lot of videos with my camcorder (for holiday movies…) and there are always great people in it. Especially when I just randomnly walk her with the camera running all are suddenly starring into the lense :)

  2. Beautiful pictures! Did you talk to all of the people you took? That’s brave. I always want to take pictures like that but it’s intimidating since I’d want to talk to them too.

    I don’t have quite the same cavalier attitude towards people who took my picture without asking while I was in Japan, especially if they’re male. Maybe it’s because I’ve had worse experiences, but it creeps me out.

    • I didn’t talk to all of them. Obviously not the ones I was shooting from behind just for the sake of their interesting cloths xD but in china it’s actually very easy to strike up conversations, especially with people who have kids :)

      I understand why you don’t like Japanese men taking pictures of you. Friends have told me horrible stories. But in china it’s usually the girls asking to take pictures with you and men would never dare to, or just secretly take a pictures of your face out of a corner if everyone else is doing it. But yeah there are creeps all around the world

    • Yeah china has so many cute kids and their cloths are always incredibly colorful :) plus it is easier to take pictures of kids than older people. Simply tell the mother how cute her kid is and ask how old she/he is. It works perfectly in china, but I think in western countries people wouldn’t like to have pictures taken of their kids by strangers.

  3. This is pretty cool. I’ve also picked up the habit of taking a camera with me wherever I go. I don’t take pictures of random strangers, however… I just don’t like the idea of coming across something interesting or weird without being able to capture it on record.

  4. I looove the photos :D you are brave talking to many of them, I would’ve felt so shy.. >.< The little girls are super cute ~ I wan't to do something like that when I go back to China :D

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