Chinatown

by Jon on June 28, 2011

The night market that happens here every weekend during the summer is full of energy and colour. Also sticky things you can chew, meat on skewers, open air stage shows, lots of shouting, steam, smoke, tiny Buddhas, animatronic birds, lanterns, pagodas, glowsticks, paper dragons, soy bean noodles and candy floss.

The stage performances are so achingly bad that they’re good – elderly ladies doing slow-motion tai chi out of sync to a lethargic gu zheng; karaoke sung by people in shiny embroidered suits, who really have no business being seen or heard in public – but no one seems to mind, and a large crowd forms and is genuinely entertained, especially the children. It’s a community event after all, so the casual, unpolished presentation is a part of its immense charm.

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By the time it gets dark Keefer Street is packed with visitors, many of them Chinese, many not, and while a good many of the stalls are dedicated to peddling cheap toys, sunglasses, clothes and plastic trinkets that inexplicably glow, an equal if not larger number are making and selling street food, and that’s what most people are here for. It’s also what makes some of the best photos – the way folks behave as they prepare and sell, and buy and eat it while taking in the spectacle around them makes for interesting studies.

People are friendly – a fortunate thing because at a public gathering like this the magic is found in the human element. No one seems to mind having their picture taken (although I have my inquisitive look and ‘may I shoot?’ gesture refined to such a disarming art that it’s usually all over before most people realize they’ve already nodded yes.) They’re especially proud when you photograph their kids, and the kids themselves are always delighted to see their own image on the preview screen of the 7D. A cute kid giggling at their own photo warms the insides even more than spicy szechuan beef on a stick. Parents beam happily.

I probably shot around 250 frames in total, and running them all through my Lightroom workflow takes time, but if you’d like to check out the selects, keep an eye on the Flickr feed. They’ll show up here on the sidebar at random also.

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