Same Youth, World Apart

Few days ago a friend of mine Lucas Mulder wrote a piece about poverty in Guatemala on his blog 100CM [METRE] and his personal encounter with teens trying to make ends meet so that he and his family can survive the other day. All the startling reminder of dire need to eliminate poverty.
Interestingly, On the other end of the world I’ve been working on this day job of photographing the would be high school grads. A pretty high tempo job which you have deal with kids who grew up in the environment that was very well protected……..The ideal environment for raising kids I suppose but it does has draw backs. Kids who grew up here are demanding, they think they deserve everything and most of all they often have no regard to others…….and these characteristics became more apparent when they are in front of the camera.
So for the last couple days while I was dealing with these kids, I often thought about that kid Lucas encountered in Guatemala……what would he thinks if he sees what I see? 

A little circle of friends…….

At My old colleage friend’s apartment in Surrey, BC. The one on the background is my wife Christine.
Takako, My old College friend and Christine moved to Vancouver within two years after I settled here. Though the motive to be here are a bit different. Christine moved here because….well….I’m here. But Takako settled here mainly because she wasn’t able to secure a permanent residence in the U.S. after spending about 10 years working and studying, and Canadian citizenship became a next best option for her.
Regardless of the intention for resettlement one thing they share about their experiences in Vancouver is that they can’t wait to get out of this place. This is something I’m hearing more and more from people of around my age both immigrants and natives alike. The grim fact is that Vancouver is becoming one of the most expensive city to live in North America but at the same time salaries for average people living Vancouver has not risen in the past seven years other than few sectors. This caused a great stress for young people who want to start a life here and many of them end up leaving the place for good. Oh, and the rainy weather seems to make a already stressful life even grimmer……like salt on the injury.
So with Takako’s case she was lucky enough to find a somewhat decent job recently after worked in a Japanese owned firm with shitty pay. But as for me and my wife we decide to leave this place as early as next year. The reason? This place is simply not a place for photography.

O Canada x 14……..

For people who work in the the grad photo sector June is usually a very busy time since pretty much every school on the face of the planet are holding ceremonies for youngsters who are ready to move on to the next stage of their lives. And since I happened to work at one of the grad studio as the day job I was part of this June madness as well……
From the beginning of June I was pretty much on location or out of town mostly photographing ceremonies, with bulk of them university grads. Strangely enough I always end up in Victoria, BC shooting the ceremonies there. Of course it was not a bad place to be and since the city has one of oldest Chinatown in Canada this means I can use my spare times working on my personal project, which is about Chinatown around the world. But then after spent almost two weeks of the entire month in Victoria and sit through the same ceremonies eight times…..it started to get repetitive……
But on the brighter side after having listen through national anthem of Canada for about 14 times I think I don’t have worry about failing the citizenship exam on that part……

Migration

For years I was using a bad French phrase as my domain address because I thought it was different(was studying French at the time, which I failed miserably). But then I moved to Canada and had a chance to travel to Europe this domain printed on my business card started to taken toll on me slowly as I encounter more and more French. I did thought about having a domain name change few month after I register the site but because the process was quite complicated so I decide to put on hold….without even realizing that I end up having this monster which was even more difficult to rebuild.
Anyway, Starting from today I will be slowly but painfully migrating contents from the current site to the new one. The web address for the new site will be http://www.benhuangphotos.com. Hopefully the new site will be up and running in the complete form by the end of this week. In the meantime when you visit this site in the near future you will also be redirected automatically to that of new one.

Four Days Vitoria, One Week Toronto, and Exhibition Here and There

It’s been a very intensive two weeks which I’ve been travel out of town for very two different purposes. Between Late april and early May I was on the job at Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, for about 4 days. Then I have to rush back to Vancouver to attend an opening of a show which exhibit some of my work at Exposure Gallery (I mentioned on earlier post). Days later, I was in Toronto attend a photography workshop organized by CONTACT and Magnum Photos.

The job in Victoria was not so much of the exciting ones. It’s a typical job if you involved in school photography – Just go there and taking picture of people’s faces. Though off the job I did spend sometime wondering around town trying to get the sense of the city. I have to say having spend two years living in Vancouver, Victoria is a eye re-freshener for me. The first thing you noticed about Victoria is that older buildings, regardless of residential, commercial or historical buildings are well maintained by the locals – something you can find less in Vancouver these days. Then as you get in contact with locals you started to notice a mellow less self centered attitude across them. So in the end not a most exciting trip ever but did have a moment of pleasure here and there.
As for the opening of the show at Exposure Gallery, since I already mentioned on the earlier post so I won’t elaborate details here. But prior to the show I invited some of my friends and co-workers for the opening and in the end only one showed up – Yes, ONE – and I missed her because after stayed in the gallery for about an hour I just have to go partly a little upset on people’s lack of commitment but also the fact that there’s way too many people in the gallery and I just need to get some fresh air outside after few drinks.
Anyway, days later I was on the plane to Toronto for Magnum workshop. I have to say up to the first day of the workshop I was quite nervous about this event because first I wasn’t sure my tuition payment got through or not since I paid on the last minute. Then there’s uncertainty of what would people think of my work especially from my group instructor Larry Towell, who is among one of my most respected photographer from Magnum. But after the first day of the workshop all doubts were out – I received a positive feedback from people in the workshop on the project I did on the theme parks, including Larry himself. The following four days after the first day of the workshop was just intensive shooting and critic session which I produced some of best images in months and was fortunate enough to be nominated for the Scotia Bank Prize – The award designed for outstanding student from the workshop.
By the way, this workshop also gave me a chance to spark a new idea for the next project I want to work on for sometime. I’ll try to post them on the website when it is ready.
One more thing before I go, photographs I produced during the workshop will be part of group exhibition at CONTACT gallery in Toronto until Jun 10th or longer. So if you’re in the area and an interested in photography pleas do go and check it out.
 

Group Show At Exposure Gallery

I’ve been fortunate to have my works selected for the upcoming group show at Exposure Gallery in Vancouver. It’s a gallery which the curator selected a theme in about once every two months to its members and have members submit their photographic work based on that theme. The upcoming group show is “Street” and three of my photographs were selected for this show.

The Opening night is on May 2nd at 8pm and the show will run from May 2nd to May 18th. Please do come and enjoy the show if you live in Vancouver or near by area.

Burt Glinn 1925-2008

Burt Glinn, One of the first American photographers joined Magnum Photos passed away on the early morning of April 9th, 2008.

Below is his short bio derived from Magnum Blog:

“Versatile and technically brilliant, Glinn was one of Magnum’s great corporate and advertising photographers. He had received numerous awards for his editorial and commercial photography, including the Best Book of Photographic Reporting from Abroad from the Overseas Press Club and the Best Print Ad of the Year from the Art Directors Club of New York. Glinn has served as president of the American Society of Media Photographers. He was president of Magnum between 1972 and 1975, and was re-elected to the post in 1987.”

Philip Jones Griffiths 1936-2008

Yet another veteran photojournalist passed away, and this time it is the one I respect the most. 

Philip Jones Griffiths, a veteran war photographer who made his fame capturing the brutality during the Vietnam War passed away on 18th of March, 2008 after years of struggle with cancer. His compelling images which later became a well-known book Vietnam Inc. challenge the attitude towards the war in the US.  His images and his book had profound influence on me in storytelling with photographs and helped me to be a better photo narrator. But what’s more important is that his book Vietnam Inc. left a lasting legacy even today because if you look at the words in the book and compare to the situation in Iraq you’ll find a close resemblance as to the philosophical approach between the two.
My condolences goes to Philip, his close ones and friends at Magnum

Embracing Obstacles

About two weeks ago I had a chance through my colleague at work place to photograph a wedding. Though it  was a freebie because the client only wish for video service which my colleague does, it gave me a chance to have some wedding photographs of my own to show potential clients in the future. But photographs aside, through this wedding I was finally able to embrace an obstacle I had on photographing weddings. Something I had purposely avoid for years.

Back in the days when I began to study photography my very first job was assisting a photographer who owns a wedding studio in Southern California. It was mentally and psychically draining job because this particular studio serve mostly Chinese weddings(To gave you some idea Chinese/Taiwanese weddings usually runs about 8-10 hours because there’re more ceremonies to go through), which means we usually spent the entire day running around places and by the time it was over it’s almost mid-night. Salary was pathetic for the obvious fact that I was on student visa and they can’t really hire me. Adding to the matter worse the boss is a very short-tempered man and for a smallest mistake he would yelled at you for hours(Only years later I heard through family that he suffered from depression, which explained his temper). Finally after little over than three months it was too much for me to take so I resigned.
Years after I left this studio I had several people asked me if I photograph weddings, especially here in Vancouver. But I always trying to avoid doing weddings for the unpleasant experience I had back in the US(even though I’ve done something more stressful in the past six years). It was not until sometime ago I began to play around with the idea again because wedding photography is quiet a significant sector in Vancouver. In addition I was trying to incorporate wedding photography with my own style. But what’s more important is that this time I’m not working under anyone so there won’t be a boss yelling at me. And this led to the wedding I photographed two weeks ago.
The result? Well……you’ll be the judge…..