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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

After the Morning, in the Real Light of Day

This is an addendum to yesterday's post.

The morning mist did provide a wonderful alternative to the brilliant sunshine of the day before. I love the moods created in these images.

And then I came back again in the mid-afternoon, for my lunchtime walk. The sun had burned away all the fog, and the streets were clogged with tourists and residents going about their daily business.

To escape most of the crowds, I decided to walk in the tiny alleyways that are like the capillaries that wend their way through the body of Chinatown.

This is one of them.

As I walked down this alley, I felt like I was trespassing, seeing things I shouldn't see. The alley was unusually dirty and smelled of the sewer.

It was also a dead end.

I didn't realize that until I got there.

And then I saw this little guy.

He just about broke my heart.

At first he did not want his picture taken.

And then I guess he didn't mind since I was farther away.

I wanted so much to take him in my arms and bring him home with me.

I hope hope hope that he is someone's pet.

Goodbye little one.


I realize that Chinatown is a real, living breathing place, full of charisma and chaos. Dirt and brilliance. It's a real neighborhood, a place of poverty where the tourists feel safe. It draws me in, just like thousands of other people, every day.

From a very good article in the LA Times:

In the roughly 24 square blocks that make up Chinatown's core, 22,000 to 30,000 people reside (depending on who's estimating), most of them Cantonese-speaking Chinese, many in one-room apartments or government-subsidized public housing.

Chinatown remains among the poorest and least-educated neighborhoods in San Francisco — a "gilded ghetto," in one author's phrase.

"Most of our people here, in the core of Chinatown, live below the poverty line," said Rose Pak, general consultant to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco since 1983. "One wave in, one wave out. One wave in, one wave out. This will always be a haven and orientation point for newcomers, because of the language and the availability of social services."

Is there another neighborhood in North America that's as impoverished and as beloved by tourists?


Sometimes I feel like my camera is a shield. It allows me to see things clearly but also to have something to put in front of my face to protect me.

Do you feel that way too?

I guess you realize this by now, but I did take all these photos.


julochka August 13, 2008 at 10:29 AM  

love the YMCA pic and the one of the little kitty where he's still hiding his face behind the step--it's SOoo poignant!

great musings on the neighborhood. i can't think of another one that's poor and a tourist attraction. not so many tourists south of 59th in chicago...

it's an interesting question, because does it have to do with the group that comes there...does it being chinese have an effect? i'll have to ponder that one.

great post! :-) it seems your inspiration has returned.

margie August 13, 2008 at 2:29 PM  

beautiful pics not to mention you seem very determined and inspired these days. see what a little sick in the bed can do for you!!

Anonymous August 13, 2008 at 5:10 PM  

Well, you just KNOW which one is MY favorite, Miss TB :-)

Glad you're feeling better.

Relyn August 13, 2008 at 5:23 PM  

The Chinatown photos are wonderful, but it's the kitten's photo-story that moved my heart. Oh, how I wish you had taken him home with you.

Chinatown is an interesting combination: poor, safe, and full of culture. I think it is beloved because it is safe. So, people get a glimpse of a completely different way of life, a tiny taste, while staying pretty safely in their own world. It's like travel without the frustrations. Personally, I am dying to join you on a walk and some dim sum.

Christina August 14, 2008 at 7:46 AM  

Thank you sweetheart for my morning cry. The pictures, the kitty, the culture. All such beautiful and touching subjects.

I love this post!

Thank you sweet friend. for such a beautiful post.

PS: I admit, it is more like hiding behind my camera : )

tangobaby August 14, 2008 at 10:22 AM  

Hi julochka,

I am crazy for that YMCA pic. I've taken countless photos of it, and none of them have worked until this one. The photo I wanted had always eluded me until this one. Now I feel like I can move on to the next subject.

I agree, I think that this neighborhood gives the impression of relative safety despite its areas of squalor. But this part of town also relies heavily on the tourist trade and I'm sure the residents there, although they must be tired of us, know that livelihoods are made from daytrippers.

I don't think areas like Watts or Hunter's Point are associated with tourism.

Hi Margie,

My camera is my little pick-me-up friend. I'm also so lucky to live in a place that, to me, is alive with subjects for my lens.

And yes, it's a relief to not be home sick anymore. My nose is still stuffy, but I can sure live with that!

Hi Johanna,

I know the one. You are the Kitten Whisperer. I know you would have whisked him away to a safe home.

Hi relyn,

Me, too. I felt so torn in that I knew I had to be back at work, and here was this little soul who was probably hungry, and I had to go back to the office and think about him and worry.

Yes, you're right...Chinatown is like a tiny world nested inside a bigger one. Within a few blocks, you have entered a new country, passport not required. I know how you admire and appreciate the details. You would go wild here taking photos. Do come out someday, and bring Sloan and we will have a different kind of tea party, in the heart of Chinatown!

Hi christina,

Well, now we are even because I had my morning cry at your place. ;-)

Someday you and I will go on a photowalk together. Won't that be fantastic?

robin bird August 14, 2008 at 10:28 AM  

i'm glad you followed up from yesterdays or day before now) post. it sounds like the lighting is not the only difference between the morning and midday but that your own feelings became more reality driven. that seems like a good thing. a completely different opportunity to experience the picture making process. and i am glad you included the harsh details about the area. and my heart broke for you as your heart broke for his little heart :)

willow August 14, 2008 at 12:22 PM  

Awww...that little guy is priceless. I would have scooped him up in a heartbeat!

paris parfait August 14, 2008 at 1:00 PM  

Great photos. And a camera is absolutely a shield, especially in situations like war zones or great suffering. It seems to put a barrier between the photographer and the subject, particularly if the subject is in dire circumstances. Sometimes the "shield" of the camera is what keeps the photographer from losing control of his or her emotions. If you recall a few years ago, a war photographer won a Pulitzer, but later killed himself. He'd had difficulty separating his "intrusion" into the suffering of his subjects - and then the unwanted rush of fame. There have been many situations in which I felt shy and lifted the camera almost as a protective mechanism to keep other people at bay, as well as to take photos.

It can also have the reverse effect - sometimes people will approach you because you're carrying a camera and they're curious.

Great news about your photo book - will be interested to see the results. I know people who've gone this route and been pleased w/ the results; others were disappointed w/ some minor errors. I think it's a good start to the photography books in your future. xoxox