Street photographer and blogger Sue Anne Tay pounds the pavements of Shanghai, threading her way through old alleys to capture some of this city's disappearing scenes. With her new project, "The Roving Exhibit," Sue Anne takes her artwork back on the streets to share them with the residents of some of Shanghai's older neighborhoods. Join us this Friday at twocities as Sue Anne shares about her experiences as a photographer and narrator of Shanghai's street stories.
How did you get into street photography?
Photography was and remains the easiest way to get acquainted with the city. The turning point for me was when I discovered the social dynamics and architectural beauty of longtangs, which truly defines the metropolitan area. Communicating this living history through a medium like street photography felt like the most natural thing in the world.
What do you look for when you are taking pictures?
It depends. Sometimes, situations prevail where you can easily thread a narrative in your head. You try to capture the context, the details and interaction between the subject(s) and the environment. Other times, I look for a unique composition and angle for the best aesthetic appeal.
What advice do you have for other photographers?
Three things. One is to put yourself out there and pound the pavements for a good tale to spin. From the everyday to the extraordinary, the city is just teeming with stories.
Second is to practice. As you spend more time with your camera, you become aware of your limitations and work to overcome them. You also start viewing the world through an imaginary viewfinder and the possibilities can be a great motivator.
Third is to learn from and share with others. I get inspired by the technique and works of other great photographers as well as writers. I try to share and comment on the works of my peers covering Shanghai in their own unique way and it can be both humbling and fruitful.
How do you contribute to building the "good city" in what you do?
If by "good city" you mean having a foot in both its history and the future, Shanghai doesn't quite yet have that balance. I like to think that what I do, along with many others who document Shanghai through photography, is to reflect society and the city in the most uncensored and honest way possible. It is the quotidian moments that reveal the most, and I hope people don't forget them.
If you could describe Shanghai in one word, what would it be and why?
Visceral. Think about how the locals have had to cope with the rapid pace of urbanization while thousands of migrants flood into the city carrying their hopes and dreams to make a better life. The whole city is like an urban jungle where everyone has to survive on instinct and intuition.
"twocities Conversations: Sue Anne Tay and the Roving Exhibit". Friday, June 17. Starts at 7:30 pm, in English.