Best of 2015
Ok, its that time of year again where… wait, hang on a minute, its now well into January 2016. Its not like I have any kind of deadline though, so I can miss the end of year lists by three weeks if I feel like it. In fact I missed publishing a list for 2014 altogether and skipped straight to 2015.
So what have I been photographing ?
Well, in terms of the previous two personal projects based around DSLR street photography and a more meditative exploratory medium format project, the short answer is not much. In fact I’ve gone the whole year without having a DSLR. My Canon 5D2 broke and I’ve not replaced it.
How can one consider themselves a photographer, and yet choose not replace their main professional camera ? Well, other priorities… even more important than photography. I guess I am now a photographer and a filmmaker. Since summer 2014 I’ve been filming and directing a feature-length documentary about Mixed Martial Arts in China (I’ll write a blog post on this film later…), so I’d spent my savings on new equipment and computers for filming and editing broadcast video. In addition, the previously fairly casual visa situation for freelancers in Beijing has become increasingly strict in the past year in. I made the tough decision to (more or less) stop looking for freelance work for now and sign up for an almost full-time job with stable salary & visa. And that’s been my life, travelling back and forward across China every couple of weeks either for this job or the documentary film. I’m so fatigued with airports and stations that I’ve had little desire to get off my sofa and take a few days off and go exploring remote places with a few rolls of medium format film. But I know I need to in 2016. I really miss that sense of freedom.
Actually, I did have one trip in 2015 which made me nostalgic for the carefree explorations of previous years. Over the Spring Festival holiday break I had a photojournalism assignment for Financial Times to photograph a migrant worker in Beijing and then go back to her hometown in Hubei for New Year’s eve itself. I embarked on a crazy 24 hour journey from Beijing to the remote town of Songpan high in the misty mountains of Shennongjia, an area of China with an certain cloak of mystery that I’d always been curious to visit. One delayed flight to Wuhan, three buses, two unlicenced taxis and a mianbaoche (small van) later, I was high in the mountains of Shennongjia, asking the driver to stop by the side of the small mountain road to let me saviour the mountain air at 7:30pm. Fortunately I’d brought my Mamiya 6 medium format camera with me… and I made my one sole contribution to a personal project in 2015. Sure, I took decent photojournalistic photos with a borrowed DSLR during the rest of the assignment, but nothing that fits with previous personal projects.
But that’s not the whole story. I’ve always had my cameraphone on me, and with little time to devote to previous personal projects, these cameraphone snaps have been my main creative outlet for still photography. They’ve been a “outlet”, and probably more, probably becoming a personal project in their own right. Ultimately though I don’t like the limitations of photographing with a cameraphone, it has neither the professional features and speed of use that a DSLR has, nor does it have the exquisite image quality of the medium format camera. The only advantage really of a cameraphone is that its always there, either in your pocket or glued to your face. I guess I will try to get used to carrying an inexpensive 35mm film camera as my “carry-everywhere” camera, but I feel I should keep going with this cameraphone thing at least until the phone breaks, which could be any day now given the condition it is in… And so, the remaining “best” 14 photos I took in 2015, all of them shot with the humble Xiaomi 4 Android cameraphone…