A slight but determined drizzle descends through the eeri yellow mist shrouding Pudong’s glistening heights, fusing with the perilous waters of the Huangpu, violently churning and chopping as a billion white crests displace tarpaulin-covered barges to safe harbour down stream. A sand storm hailing from the dry deserts of Xin Jiang silently drapes the cityscape like a veil, Shanghai’s famous baby blue lost through impenetrable tones of mustard and coffee. Black umbrellas burst to life as eager tourists choose to brave the gritty weather, posing for photos against the apocalyptic background of wet concrete and sandy glass, grinning white teeth shimmering through noxious mists like cheshire cats.
Pulling my raincoat closer, I shoulder the saturated 500mm and set off down a deserted Nanjing Lu, hop-scotching loose paving stones as wet sand falls from the sky, filling in the city cracks like oil on canvas.
Because it makes me a stronger photographer. I found that after 15 years shooting digital my field-work attitude had shifted for the worse; I became accustomed to the high FPS my Nikons could turn over, became lazy when bracketing for HDR, began to abuse high ISO and just accepted the grain in all weather. I’d leave my tripod at home and just make do with image stabilistion. Above all, I’d become lazy, relying on technology to finish a process I’d start in my mind. I didn't start like that, it just slowly happened, and I'd soon lost track of why I picked up a camera to begin with.
So I changed.
Forcing ourselves to select a small number of images amoungst a infinite number of possibilities enables us to think deeper about our photography, it gives us motivation and focus during times of lack-lustre malaise, and it aligns our thoughts, encouraging thematic expression in collections.
Give it a try.
Barnaby Jaco Skinner
Photographer & Artist