Et La Ville Les Dévora

And The City Swallowed Them, the ebook by Mara Hvistendahl which debuted as the first edition for the writer’s collective Deca earlier this year, has just been published in a French translation by the Canadian imprint Inouï. Et La Ville Les Dévora unfolds the tale surrounding the murder of Diana O'Brien, a young model from Salt Spring Island who was stabbed in a Shanghai stairwell twelve days after arriving in the city in 2008. The French edition features the same photography contributions as the Deca version, including a selection of images I took in British Columbia and Shanghai. For more information, visit Inouï’s website here.


Shanghai Wen Miao

Proximity is a poor motivational factor when it comes to visiting a new place: that which lies closest to us often escapes our efforts, perhaps because we take its availability for granted. The Wen Miao (上海文庙) or Confucian temple of Shanghai is a complex I have been meaning to explore since moving to the city three years ago but somehow never got my act together. This autumn the combined enthusiasm of Dutch friends visiting China and my sense of playing host to them finally made a trip transpire.

The current complex was built in 1855 and is located within the south-west quadrant of the old Chinese City, but the original temple of the Yuan dynasty predates the founding of the city and was completed in 1296. The structures standing today were mostly restored in the 1990s following widespread damages during the turbulent Taiping Rebellion (in which the temple served as a headquarters for the Small Swords Society) and later the Cultural Revolution. The simple yet exact layout of its network of halls, pagodas, courtyards, and ponds offers a tranquil counterpoint to the congestion of the old city. In some parts, the only object disturbing the peaceful interior horizons is the new Shanghai Tower of Pudong, creeping past the temple’s intricately tiled rooflines. Trees beside the main Da Cheng hall have tokens of hope tied to their branches by past visitors from as far afield as France, America, South Korea and Malaysia.

On: Vulnerability

You have to be completely open and demonstrate that you are also vulnerable. You can’t be just a photographer – you have to discover who you are yourself. If you don’t, people won’t open up to you. That means that you mustn’t avoid being vulnerable. For me, it’s a kind of exchange. Even though I’m the one taking the pictures, my ambition is to achieve an equal exchange between myself and the person I’m photographing.
— Jacob Aue Sobol

Photograph: Untitled (Anji county China, 2014)


On: The Subject

When I first started to take photographs in Czechoslovakia, I met this old gentleman, this old photographer, who told me a few practical things. One of the things he said was, “Josef, a photographer works on the subject, but the subject works on the photographer.” I have the camera’s viewfinder and I am trying to put the world — for the world — in the viewfinder. But in the same time the world is forming me.
— Josef Koudelka

Epicgram #23

Photography is essentially a phenomenological practice: no matter how complex or obscure a picture can be, it will always show the nature of the photographer’s relation to the real with a degree of clarity.
— Luc Delahaye

Epicgram #22

I remember in my hometown in Aachen was the cathedral. This octagon was built by Charlemagne. In different centuries they did something different with it. Sometime in the Baroque they plastered the whole thing and made ornaments in it. When I was young they took the plaster out. Then they didn’t have the money to go further, so you saw the real stones. When I looked at the old building that had nothing on it, just fine brickwork or stonework - a building that was really clear and with really good craftsmanship - I would have given all the other things for one of these buildings.
— Mies van der Rohe

Photograph: Untitled (Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, 2013)


Lucency #1

Lucency will be an ongoing series of single-image posts showcasing photographs I've made and that I feel possess an absorbing quality inherently: that is, compelling images that need not be read within the context of a broader edit or reportage. Date, location, processing, and subject will all be open: they could be recent or from an old film archive, monochrome or colour, documentary, architectural, or portraiture.

The guiding thread is an immersive quality which provokes closer inspection and invites repeated readings. Images whose appearances somehow grip our apprehension, and remain within the folds of our memory.

(Bamboo forest, Moganshan, 2014)