Tag Archives: travel

Seeking Sacred

When visiting new places, traveling off the beaten path can often yield unexpected surprises, as was the case with photographer Enoch Contreras’s trip to Cambodia. Jaded by the hordes of tourists on his visit to Angkor Wat, he wandered off from the crowds in search for a moment of quiet and ended up stumbling upon an adjacent monastery. There, he was met with a monk covered in tattoos, a look that Contreras hadn’t ever associated with Buddhist practitioners. Intrigued by the disparity between his preconceived notions of monkhood and the monk’s actual appearances, he sought to learn more about their lifestyles. For the next few days, with the aid of a younger monk at the monastery who spoke passable English, he embedded himself within their community and produced the Seeking Sacred photo series.

每到一个新地方,独辟蹊径往往能让人收获意想不到的惊喜。摄影师 Enoch Contreras 在柬埔寨的旅程正是如此。前往历史悠久的吴哥窟旅游时,Enoch 避开了热门的旅游景点,却在偶然间发现了附近的一个寺院。

在这间寺院,他遇到一个身上布满纹身的僧人正在切菜,这位僧人看上去与 Enoch 印象中的僧侣形象如此不同,让他感到十分好奇。在接下来的几天里,通过一位会一点英语的年轻和尚的帮助,Enoch 得以融入到这座寺院的生活中,拍摄了《Seeking Sacred》(《寻找神圣》)这一系列的作品。

“I thought that all monks were serious practitioners who chose their path because they wanted to dedicate their lives to the teachings of Buddha,” Contreras told us.

But as it turns out, many from this particular monastery didn’t join out of religious devotion alone. For many of the monks there, Buddhism was more than a religious belief. The monastery provided shelter and food, and so, following the path of Dharma became a practical way for them to survive.

“Many of the younger monks especially,” Contreras tells us. “Their families couldn’t afford to provide for them so they were brought to live there where they knew their kids’ basic necessities would be taken care of. Others were orphans who came for the same reason, as a means of survival. One of the older monks became an orphan during the Cambodian genocide when he lost his entire family. He chose this path in order to maintain a life off the streets.”

“我一直以为僧侣都是严肃的教徒,他们之所以选择成为僧侣,都是想为佛陀的教诲奉献出自己的生命。”Enoch 说。


“对于许多年轻的僧侣,尤其如此。”Enoch 解释道,“他们的家人因为无法负担他们的生活,才把他们带到这里,因为他们知道,小孩在这里可以得到基本的生活必需品。而另一些僧侣则原本就是孤儿,来这里也是出于同样的原因——生存下去。寺院里有一位较年长的僧侣在柬埔寨大屠杀期间成了孤儿,为了免于流落街头,他也选择成为了僧人。”

With an authentic interest in these monks’ lives, Contreras was able to create compelling photos that are a refreshing departure from the typical, detached perspectives of a photographer experiencing a new culture for the first time. Seeking Sacred shows these monks not as mysterious zealots. but reveals them for who they really are, as regular people with their own hopes and struggles. “When there were no tourists around, they relaxed and allowed themselves to be exactly who they were without any masks,” he tells us. “They were gritty and playful, yet balanced by their beliefs. Despite their decision to walk the path of Dharma, they were still holding on to who they were before they became devoted. That’s exactly what I wanted to show.”

通过深入了解生活在那里的僧侣,Enoch 的照片不同于业余摄影师照片中那种置身事外的视角。在《Seeking Sacred》镜头下的僧人,并不属于一个神秘的狂热宗教,相反,这些照片呈现了他们内心真实的一面,和普通人一样,他们也有着自己的希望、梦想和奋斗。“我想表达的是,尽管他们选择了佛教,但他们仍然坚持着做真正的自己。当周围没有游客时,他们会放松下来,卸下面具,做真实的自己。他们坚强又风趣,同时有着自己的信念。”

Instagram: @enochcontreras


Contributor: David Yen

Instagram: @enochcontreras


供稿人: David Yen

Persimmons & Gangsters

A rumor making its way around the internet claims that the historic Yau Ma Tei fruit market, Hong Kong’s largest, is run by the local crime syndicates known as triads. Intrigued, I decided to visit the market at its busiest time, between midnight and 7:00 am, to investigate.

Late at night, it’s easy to imagine drug deals and fistfights in the dimly lit corners of the buildings lining the street, most of which date back over a century. On the night I visit, a scent of citrus, rotten melon, and sweat hangs in the air. Shirtless men maneuver carts piled high with pallets of Washington apples and Japanese strawberries, while the luckier ones ride tiny, seatless forklifts from the loading zone to the storefronts.

Nearly half of all fruit sold in Hong Kong passes through Yau Ma Tei. Most workers arrive near midnight and work until 8:00 am. It’s not an easy job, and the schedule is grueling, but some of the old-timers have been here for over forty years.




Making my way around the market, chatting with the vendors and other workers, I meet an octogenarian by the name of Mr. Lam, who vehemently denies the rumors.

“No, no, no! The gangs never ran the market!” he insists. “In its heyday, there were nearly 400 stands, each with 10 to 20 employees. Most of them did physical labor at night. Some of the guys this job drew in were also in gangs. But the owners were usually well-to-do people who just wanted a business they could be proud of.”

Not far away, in a stall selling persimmons, snake fruit, Asian pears, and other delicacies, shirtless man named Mr. Yung recalls how in the past gangs would sometimes converge on the market, making any business impossible. “It used to be pretty dark around here. Gangs would come around, so regular people were afraid to walk through the area.”


“不不不!这些帮派势力从来没有进到市场!”他坚持道, “在全盛时期,这里有将近四百个摊位,每个摊位有十到二十名员工。他们大多数人都在晚上做体力活。这里也吸引了一些帮派分子来从事这份工作。但摊主通常不在乎,因为他们都是富有的人,只想要一份可以引以为傲的事业。”


Still, Yung agrees with Lam that stall owners are mostly honest businesspeople, even if some of their employees had ties to the triads. “The transport guys were usually gang members, and I think some of them still are,” he adds. “They used to fight over the stalls. Now and then, they’d get into a brawl in the market over territory. Today the police come through all the time, so it’s safe for tourists. Some people even take wedding photos here.”

The triads may mostly be gone, but their freewheeling ethos remains. When I ask the veterans of the market why they’ve stayed around all these years, “freedom” is a common refrain.

“My family doesn’t like it, but they’re used to it. They understand this is how I make a living,” says Mr. Ng, known around the market as Sau Nga Zai, or Snaggletooth. Nicknames are the designation of choice around here. “This guy’s name is Sai Leung—Boss Leung,” he says, pointing to his partner, “because he’s always giving orders.”

尽管如此,翁先生依然同意前一位林先生的说法。摊主大多是诚实的商人,即使他们的部分雇员和黑社会有关系。 “运输工人通常是帮派成员,我认为他们当中一些人现在仍然是。”他补充道。 “他们曾经在摊位上打架,偶尔会为了地盘问题发生争吵。但现在警察很常巡逻,所以对游客来说是安全的。甚至有人在这里拍婚纱照。”


“我的家人不喜欢这里,但他们习惯了。他们明白这就是我谋生的方式。”吴先生说,或应该称他为“缺牙仔”或“断牙”。在这里,彼此之间的称呼都用昵称。 “这个人的名字叫梁世,或梁老大。”他指着他的搭档说,“因为他总爱指使别人。”

Ng leaves home at 10:30 pm to come to the market, works all night, and gets off around 8:00 am. “I don’t have much time with my wife,” he says. “When I leave for work, she often hasn’t come home yet. My son once asked me not to work in this industry, but he’s grown up now.”

People who work regular hours may not see the graveyard shift as a kind of freedom, but for Ng, working while Hong Kong sleeps is liberating. “When I’m off, I’m totally free,” he boasts. “That makes the hard parts of the job worth it.”

吴先生晚上十点三十分离开家往市场出发,工作一整夜,早上八点左右下班。 “我没有太多时间陪我的妻子。当我离开家时,她还没回家。我的儿子曾要求我不要在这个行业工作,但他现在长大了。”

对那些按照正常工时作息的人,可能不会把半夜工作的生活模式看作一种自由,但对于吴先生而言,能在整座城市都入睡后去工作,反而是一种解放。“当我下工时,我会觉得我是完全自由的。”他骄傲的说, “这让一切的辛苦工作都值得了。”

In 1913, when the fruit market was built, Yau Ma Tei wasn’t known for much more than the nearby Tin Hau Temple. Today the main attraction is the market, which covers around 14,000 m2 and serves nearly 250 vendors. Since the 1970s, there have been proposals to relocate it, even though it’s been designated a historic building, because of the noise and the traffic disruption it causes. As of now, though, the market still stands in all its shirtless, cart-filled glory.

According to Lam, in the past, some of the noise came from the fighting that took place when the triads were more active nearby. “For some of the guys who worked in the market, physical violence was their only response to any conflict, and it drew attention.”

In addition to freedom, a tight-knit community also keeps people around. Mr. Sum, who’s 31, found his first job at Yau Ma Tei. Now, rather than hauling boxes of mandarins at 2:00 am, he comes in at 5:00 am to handle the books. Sum says that the market’s family-like relationships between merchants and customers, which have withstood natural disasters and economic downturns, are hard to find nowadays.

1913 年,水果市场刚刚建成,当时的油麻地只以天后庙为人所知,而今天大多数人都是因为市场本身慕名而来。它占地约 14,000 平方米,聚集了将近 250 家摊商。70 年代以后,由于噪音扰民和中断交通的原因,有人建议将油麻地市场找地方重新安置,尽管它已经被指定为历史建筑。不过这项提议最终没有实行,市场至今还在繁忙地运作着,一如往昔。

根据林先生所说,那些过去常被抱怨的噪音,是来自黑社会还在附近活跃时发生的斗争。 “对于在市场工作的一些人来说,暴力是对冲突的唯一回应。这很容易引起人们的注意。”

除了自由之外,团结的社区精神也是吸引人们留下的原因。沈先生今年 31 岁,在油麻地市场找到他的第一份工作。现在他不再是水果商,不用凌晨两点来搬运一箱箱柑橘;沈先生如今已是一位书商, 每天凌晨五点过来整理书籍。沈先生表示,市场内顾客和摊商之间像家人一样的紧密关系,能扛住所有自然灾害和经济衰退的打击。这种情谊现在很难在外面找到了。

“Human relationships are important here. We’re very close,” he says. “In other industries, people often care more about money than relationships. We’ve been working with some of our customers for a very long time, so if we ever need help, they’ll help us out, even if they lose money—and we’ll do the same for them. I don’t think there are many industries like that in Hong Kong anymore.”

The common complaint that young people in Hong Kong today are afraid of hard work finds an echo at the market. Many stall owners are frustrated at how difficult it has become to find people willing to do the physical labor their jobs require. “Sure, the gangsters fought over turf and sold drugs from time to time,” says Lam. “But then again, they were willing to work hard.”


在今天,有关香港年轻人不愿再付出劳力辛苦工作的种种抱怨,在市场摊贩间引起了共鸣。许多摊主对于再也找不到愿意做这样需要体力工作的年轻人,而感到沮丧。 “当然,流氓们虽然时不时会打架,有时候甚至贩毒。但是,他们愿意一次又一次的付出,努力工作。”

Photographer & Contributor: Viola Gaskell

摄影师与供稿人: Viola Gaskell

Valley of the Pandas

The early snow caught us off guard. It would have been romantic, comedic even, but for the full day of relentless rain before it.

Now the rain turned to ice. The dropping temperature bit through our soaked layers and skin, and freezing crystals tumbled their way down our necks. The others argued whether to go left or right in the immense undergrowth – for there was no path – and I quietly retreated into my own mental tomb of misery, stowing away my waterlogged and useless camera for good.



Zuǒ háishì yòu?” Left or right, they repeated, as if saying the same question once more would make the answer reveal itself out of the damp cold.

Zuǒ. That was the thin consensus, its logic hidden deep within the incomprehensible tones of rural Sichuanese dialect. They moved forward towards the left, one by one willingly entering back into the snow-laden bamboo. Its depths swallowed them each. I sighed, placed all my faith into this exercise of blind trust and tossed myself back into the barricade of mountain woods.

Misery had been what I expected, not getting lost.

We stopped again. More agitated Sichuanese. More brushing off snow from our bodies and packs. Someone close by shivered uncontrollably head to toe; another cut wet stalks of bamboo for kindling; another tried futilely to start a fire with damp tissue and matches. No fire, but my hands and feet burned. The painful beginning of frostbite had set. We were freezing, and the argument as to which way to go continued.





These were some of the most arduous moments during our three-day panda conservation patrol in the Hengduan Mountains of China. Our team of ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan entered the woods with the goal of checking infrared cameras that monitor pandas and other rare species like the musk deer and Himalayan takin. Next to that, we had to prevent their greatest threats: the warding off of would-be poachers and illegal logging of the state and provincial-owned forest for timber and expansion of arable land. The presence of officials from the local forestry department with us would give authority to our mission if we encountered any.


This patrol should have been routine, but our luck turned with the weather and a wrong turn almost cost us much more than merely a day of time. Our work turned from not only protecting the flora and fauna of the mountains to protecting our safe return home.

After the snow, we descended waterfalls, using live bamboo stalks to repel down cliffs as streams cascaded beside us. At night we made shelter in a dripping cave, once a hideout for poachers who used to hunt the forests seeking the same thing we now labored to protect. We made fire, chipping off wet wood from large, fallen trees and branches, finally using the dry interiors as kindling. The dim cave walls danced with warm, orange glow and the deluge outside which delayed our return home continued.



Pandas are one of the world’s most iconic, elusive species. Their remaining numbers in the wild are no more than a small town, less than 2000. Of this, the majority of them dwell in the Hengduan Mountains of China. And, more than anywhere else in the Hengduan, Pingwu County of Sichuan Province.

这种世界上最具代表性的和难以捉摸的动物之一,熊猫,它们野生的数量比小城镇的人口还少,只剩不到 2000 只。大部分的野生熊猫都生活在中国的横断山脉,其中,四川省平武县是横断山脉地区熊猫数量最多的地方。

Rangers of the patrol gather around to look at GPS coordinates of the locations of cameras placed in the mountains. Every month they go up in the mountains to check the infrared cameras, replace batteries, and install new ones in the forest where they think wildlife might be. / 巡逻者们聚集在一起查看山上红外线摄像机的 GPS 坐标。他们每个月都会上山对相机进行检查并更换电池,并在野生动物可能出没的地方安装上新相机。

Our team was a small collective of ethnic Tibetan villagers from the remote Pingwu County village of Guanba. Guanba isn’t on most maps. It lies hidden away in a precipitous mountain valley that winds its way along river and wood to snow-covered peaks around Jiuzhaigou. But this remote village is a foremost player in the rise of community conservation in China.

Young natives of Guanba who once served as migrant workers around China have been trickling back to this village for the last 10 years. They have returned not only to raise families in their place of birth, but also from a growing sense of environmental consciousness and responsibility to protect the land around their home. In the 70s poaching in the Hengduan Mountains was rampant, and one charismatic species’ pelt brought a particular amount of prestige and profit: the panda.


在过去的 10 年间,曾经进城务工的关坝年轻人纷纷回归。他们回来,不仅是要为了回到家乡组建家庭,更是出于他们日益强烈的环保意识和保护家园的责任感。70 年代,横断山脉的偷猎活动十分猖獗,其中一种动物的皮毛因为珍贵和高利润而成为了偷猎的目标,那就是熊猫。

Pandas in China were poached near the edge of extinction. Foreigners even came to hunt them, with the Roosevelt brothers proudly claiming the first successful panda hunt by Westerners in 1929. Finally, by the 1980s, the number of pandas remaining in the wild neared only 1000, and the national government made all poaching illegal. All the men from a neighboring village to Guanba were charged with illegal poaching and incarcerated. Fast forward to the present, and the national and local government is increasingly supporting environmental protection efforts, including the creation of a state-managed national park that will encompass almost all of the panda’s habitat.

It is under this background that the villagers of Guanba founded the region’s first community nature reserve in 2015. The reserve, while approved by the government, is solely managed by the local people, of whom the effort is led by the millennials who have come back from working remotely far across the country. While the area they protect behind their home village is only 40km wide, it is now home to four or five pandas, one of the highest densities for the species in all China.

However, hunters who create homemade guns and gunpowder still enter into these mountains, and while pandas are no longer hunted, rare takin and white-lipped deer are. These mountains, once a sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife, now lie silent. The forests still seem empty, and the rivers are devoid of fish. The recovery process has begun, but nature requires time.

在中国,大熊猫因为偷猎活动而几近濒危。不啻国内偷猎猖獗,甚至还有专门前来的外国人,在 1929 年,罗斯福兄弟(Roosevelt brothers)就曾自豪地声称他们是第一次成功狩猎大熊猫的外国人。到 20 世纪 80 年代,野生大熊猫的数量已减少到近 1000 只,中国政府下令将所有偷猎行为定为非法。关坝一个邻村里的所有男子都被控非法偷猎而被关押起来。


在这种背景下,关坝村民在 2015 年创办了当地第一个社区自然保护部。这个保护部虽然是由政府批准的,但其管理完全由当地居民负责,而其中的领头人则是一些曾远赴千里进城打工,现在回到家乡的千禧一代。他们负责的保护区在村庄背后,面积仅 40 平方千米,但现在却是四五只大熊猫的家园,这已经中国大熊猫密度最高的地区之一。


One of the cameras with infrared capabilities placed on a tree. Even though the straps securing it to the tree have been undone, moss has grown and fixed the camera to the tree. Due to the extremely humid and rainy conditions, plants in this part of the Hengduan grow quickly. / 一个安装在树上的红外线探测相机。尽管安装的绑带还未完全固定,但苔藓已经长牢,且把相机固定在了树干上。因为这里极端潮湿多雨的气候,横断山脉的植物生长速度很快。
These cameras use the same SD cards as regular cameras, so the photos can be checked on-site even if the batteries of the infrared cameras area already dead. / 红外线探测相机使用和普通相机一样的 SD 储存卡,所以即使在相机没电的情况下也能够检查里面的相片。

Still, it was this heroic recovery story that kept me fighting through the endless forest of thorns and wet bamboo. A village whose natives had turned from poachers to protectors was a story too enticing not to investigate and share. In response to the ever-present threat of outside poachers, the Guanba Community Nature Reserve patrols the mountains monthly and have been doing so since 2009. But even the best-laid plans go awry. A wrong turn up a ravine early on led us up to an unknown section of the mountain. An early cold snap turned the rain to snow, and we found ourselves in a position that – although the locals may be too proud to admit – could have cost us our lives. Being cold and wet with no shelter can often mean death up in the mountains.

不过,正是这一鼓舞人心的保护区事迹,让我坚持着在这片布满荆棘和湿竹的森林里奋斗。村庄居民从当初的偷猎者转变为保护者,这样的身份转变着实让人忍不住想要深入调查,并与外人分享。为了应对外界偷猎者的威胁,从 2009 年起,关坝自然保护部门每月定期巡逻山林。


At last we returned safely. The patrol was a success. We discovered no signs of poachers or their traps, a sign that the frequent patrols were working, and recovered a photo of one of the wild pandas on an infrared camera. To document this, my gear had paid the price: the Nikon body was focusing poorly, all the internal lens elements of my glass were fogged, and one my of filters had been jammed after hitting my lens on an protruding rock. After spending a night freezing in the wet cave my bed was more than a welcome sight, but I was emotionally spent from fighting through the forest. The fear of real disaster far beyond my gear for three days had drained me.

But those days cannot compare to the years that the locals have been entering the mountains for this cause. When it comes to protecting your home and the environment that supports you, there is little luxury for choice. In the brutal moments of snow falling around us, seemingly lost on a forlorn mountain ridge I was ready to give up. I would have turned back; they did not. In that moment it became evident: this is what conservation looks like. It’s dirty, it’s a mess, but it’s a real adventure. And always worth it.



Images of wildlife taken from the cameras placed throughout the mountains. / 由遍布全山的相机所拍下的野生动物照片。
Images of wildlife taken from the cameras placed throughout the mountains. / 由遍布全山的相机所拍下的野生动物照片。
Images of wildlife taken from the cameras placed throughout the mountains. / 由遍布全山的相机所拍下的野生动物照片。

In the past, Guanba had another name: bai xiong gou, or, the “Valley of the Pandas.” The road ahead will not be easy for the young conservationists who have returned here, but, as China examines how to build a national park in an area with permanent residents and villages, the positive participation of locals for conservation has never been more important, nor has sharing their story. From poachers to protectors, the young villagers are building a new future for their community and conservation in China.


Mengji, the captain of the patrol team, holds up a successfully captured photo of a wild panda from one of the infrared cameras. / 巡逻队的队长孟吉,举着一个成功拍下野生熊猫的红外线探测相机。

Contributor & Photographer: Kyle Obermann

供稿人与摄影师: Kyle Obermann

Finding Family with Cheuk-Yin

   Listen to the full story / 点击此处收听完整故事

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Hong Kong-based media platform MAEKAN. Rallying around the motto of “Stories for the Curious,” their insightful storytelling and audio-centric approach have been a much-needed breath of fresh air in a digital landscape overpopulated with listicles and rehashed content.

Together, we’ll be creating a series of stories that celebrate culture and creativity in all shapes and forms.

For the debut of our collaboration, photographer Cheuk-Yin To shares a story about how he ended up in a special reunion at his ancestral village on a recent trip to China.

我们很高兴地宣布和位于香港的媒体平台 MAEKAN 建立了伙伴关系。他们以富有见地和音频为主的讲述方法,致力于“把故事讲给好奇的人听”(Stories for the Curious),而这恰是在充斥着大量数字内容的当下所急需注入的一股新生力。


在我们合作的首篇文章中,摄影师 Cheuk-Yin To 分享了他近期到中国旅行时,竟无意中找到了他的祖籍村庄,并最终认亲团聚的故事。

As the modern world continues to race toward the future, we can find ourselves constantly groping for radical or material ways to find our identities in it. But while we might be obsessed with going forward and discovering the new, we sometimes forget to look back and to the old — to our own pasts.

Cheuk-Yin To is a photographer MAEKAN has worked with in the past. One summer evening, he dropped by the MAEKAN office where he shared a special story of how he took a side trip on a whim only to find both his roots and a few long-lost relatives.


Cheuk-Yin To 是曾与 MAEKAN 合作过的摄影师。在某个夏夜,他们就在 Yin 的办公室里听他讲述了一个特别的故事——那是在一次无意的旅行中,Yin 竟意外发现了自己失散已久的远亲和血脉的故事。

To Family Village sits on one of the many distributaries in the Pearl River Delta region. / Yin老家的村庄位于珠江三角洲地区众多分支之一

 “To be honest, it kinda broke the spell a bit. I wanted my ancestral village to be with like, old school donkey carts and stuff. It’s not like that anymore. There’s mopeds, there’s smartphones. Everyone’s in on this now.”

— Yin remarking on his unexpectedly modern ancestral “village.”


——Yin 不曾料想到祖辈的“村庄”早已现代化了

Yin with his uncles and cousin on the far right. His grandfather’s older cousin is seated. / Yin和他的远房叔伯及表亲,他的大叔公坐在正中
Yin’s grandfather’s cousin (the younger of two brothers). / Yin的小叔公
Yin’s grandfather’s cousin (the elder of two brothers). / Yin的大叔公

“Within the next generation, it’s not going to be the same anymore. I don’t think kids these days will actually stay in these villages; they’ll all go to the cities and no one’s going to maintain the traditions.”


The two girls, Qingqing (left) and Yingying (right) are the daughters of a cousin Yin did not meet and are referred to as nieces. / 青青和莹莹,这两个小女孩是Yin的侄女,她们的父亲是Yin未曾谋面的表亲
Lunch prepared the first day of Yin’s visit. / Yin第一天到访时乡亲为他准备的午餐
Yin’s aunt with the family Gai Lan crop. / Yin的阿姨和自家的芥兰田
Yin’s uncle and nephew (cousin once removed). / Yin的叔叔和侄子
Yin’s cousin. / Yin的侄子
Eating sugar cane the traditional way. / 嚼甘蔗
Yin’s niece “plays” with a chicken during an evening stroll with the family. / Yin的侄女在和家人傍晚散步时逗鸡玩

“My grand aunt made a feast that could have fed double the amount of people. […] We all ate together and watched TV at the same time, just like every other Chinese family.”


“To Family Village, Wangniudun Town, Dongguan City” / 老家之村,东莞,望牛墩镇

“You can’t describe this experience. If someone else were to find their roots — completely unintentionally…I think that’s the reason why I was so happy.”


This story is part of a content partnership and media exchange between Neocha and MAEKAN. To see more from our collaboration, click here.

本文为 Neocha 和 MAEKAN 媒体及内容合作篇。点击此处 获悉更多我们的合作内容。

Media Partner: MAEKAN

Script & Narration: Nate Kan
Audio: Elphick Wo
Photographer: Cheuk-Yin To

Images, Audio, & Text Courtesy of MAEKAN

媒体合作伙伴: MAEKAN

供稿人: Nate Kan
音频制作: Elphick Wo
摄影师: Cheuk-Yin To


The Ghats of Varanasi

Devotees bathing at a ghat, in the river Ganges. / 信徒们在瓦拉纳西河里沐浴

Varanasi, or Kashi as Hindus call it, is regarded as one of the holiest places in India. It’s also one of the oldest continually inhabited places in the world, and in modern times, it continues to receive both devotees and tourists in astounding numbers day after day. While Varanasi holds a reputation of being the spiritual capital of India due to its association with various religious figures, the historical city is most closely associated with Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities of the Hindu pantheon, and who, according to legend, founded the city.

瓦拉纳西(Varanasi),印度人又称之为“卡西”(Kashi),被认为是印度最神圣的地方之一,也是世界上最古老的、持续拥有长居人口的城市之一。而现在,它每天都以惊人的数目接待信徒和游客。由于与众多传奇宗教人物之间的联系,这座城市历来被誉为印度或印度教的精神之都,其中,它和湿婆神(Lord Shiva)之间的联系最为密切。湿婆神是印度教万神殿的主神之一,传说也是这座城市的创造者。

A sadhu reads his texts at the ghats. / 一个印度教的苦行僧在河坛上读经

Being such an ancient city, Varanasi has been demolished and rebuilt countless times over the years. The city as we know it now was primarily built by the Maratha Empire in 1700 A.D. They built the iconic ghats, or the riverfront steps leading to the banks of the Ganges River, which allowed people to easily access the river for religious rites, cleaning, and bathing. Although the ghats have fallen in disrepair over the years, they continue to be the center of cultural and religious activity in the city, with people all over the world making the pilgrimage to Varanasi just to experience them in person.

作为一个如此古老的城市,瓦拉纳西在漫长岁月中经历过无数次的拆毁和重建。我们今天所看到的这座城市,主要是由马拉塔帝国(Maratha Empire)建立于公元 1700 年。当时他们还建造了具有标志性的河坛(ghats),也就是通往恒河河岸的台阶。这些河坛便于人们走进恒河举行宗教仪式,或者进行清洁和沐浴。虽说如今的河坛早已年久失修,但它们仍然是文化和宗教活动的中心,许多人会专门到瓦拉纳西朝圣,只为了去参观下这些河坛。

Women make ritual offerings to the Ganges. / 妇女们祈祷并向恒河献祭
Devotees descend upon the ghats early in the morning. / 信徒们清晨走下河坛
Priests observe their morning rituals. / 祭祀们观看他们的晨礼

Activity at the ghats starts in the early hours of the morning. Devotees descend the steps to bathe in the Ganges. The river is worshipped as the holiest one in Hinduism and bathing in it is believed to rid one of all sins that one might have committed in life. In addition to taking a dip in the river, devotees also visit to pray with offerings of flowers and oil lamps. Alongside these devotees, Hindu priests perform their own daily prayers. While their offerings look similar to the earlier devotees, the incantations are much more complex.


People change into dry clothes, after bathing in Ganges. / 人们在恒河沐浴后换上干衣服

Varanasi also offers an interesting look at the contradicting ideals around shame and nudity in India. Conservative-minded individuals who might frown upon public displays of affection or revealing clothing like short skirts or low neckline blouses won’t hesitate to publically bathe and change clothes along the ghats, even with hordes of photographers all around.


A priest meditates at a ghat in Varanasi. / 在瓦拉纳西,一位牧师在河潭边打坐冥想
A Buddhist monk conversing with a Hindu monk. / 一个佛教僧侣正在与一个印度教僧侣交谈

The ghats also reveal an interesting perspective on how some Hindus perceive certain devotees and their motives for visiting the city. Tongue-in-cheek phrases are inscribed and penned in Hindi along the walls, urging devotees to think rather than blindly follow. One phrase takes a dig at people who sin without hesitation and return to the Ganges to bathe and be absolved of them.


Manikarnika ghat on the night of Dev Deepawali festival. / 迪瓦里节(又称排灯节)之夜,马尼卡尼卡河坛
The burning ghat by the day. / 白天进行火葬仪式的马尼卡尼卡河坛

The ghat that arouses the most curiosity, especially amongst non-Indians, is the burning ghat. It’s known as the Manikarnika Ghat, and it’s where more than three hundred cremations take place every week. The Dom community, a low-caste community of corpse burners in Varanasi, carries out the cremations day after day. Their work never stops, not even for a second; even during times of festivities, the cremations continue on.

Dying in Varanasi and what it means to Hindus is a concept that confounds most. A Western mind, familiar with Abrahamic religions, is used to thinking of death as finality. However, in Hinduism, life is believed to be a circle of birth and death. A soul keeps on taking births so as to bear the fruits and punishments of actions of past life. It goes on until the soul’s ledger of both is balanced, which might take all eternity. One of the ways to be free of that is to die in Varanasi and have the ashes immersed in the Ganges after the cremation. This is why dying in the city is an important affair and the cremations seem endless.

在外国游客看来,最让他们好奇的,通常都是那个用来进行火葬的河坛,它被称为马尼卡尼卡河坛(Manikarnika Ghat)。每星期,这里都会举行 300 多次火葬仪式。“Dom”社群——圣城瓦拉纳西中负责焚尸的一个低种姓社群,负责执行火葬仪式。他们的工作忙得不可开交,甚至连一秒钟的休息时间都没有。并且即使在节庆日活动期间,火葬仪式也会照常举行。

而死亡在瓦拉纳西及其对印度教徒的意义,则是最令人困惑的部分。在西方思想中,人们熟于亚伯拉罕诸教(Abrahamic religions),死亡往往被视为终结。然而在印度教中,生命则被认为是生与死的循环。一个灵魂会不断重生,去承受前世应得的善果和恶报。这样的轮回循环会一直持续,永恒不灭,直到灵魂帐目中的功过相抵。这也是为什么“死亡”在这座城市有着如此重要的意义,而火葬仪式也永远不会停止。

Preparations for the Ganga Aarti are underway. / 恒河暮祭的准备工作

As the day draws to a close, tourists start gathering at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Every day, between 6 to 7 pm, five young priests simultaneously perform what is known as Ganga Aarti, a prayer to the Ganges, and the rituals go on for a little over an hour. As the prayers conclude, the day at the ghats is officially over, but locals will remain along the ghats to relax, play musical instruments, and sing Bollywood songs.

随着夜幕降临,游客开始聚集在达萨斯瓦梅朵河坛( Dashashwamedh Ghat)。每天晚上六点到七点之间,五名年轻的祭司会同时表演“恒河暮祭”(Ganga Aarti)。这是对恒河的祈祷,整个仪式持续一个多小时当祈祷结束的时候,河坛一天的活动才算正式结束。但人们还是会一直逗留在河坛沿路。当地人喜欢在这里闲逛,演奏乐器或演唱宝莱坞歌曲。

A child priest performs the prayer. / 做结束祈祷的儿童牧师

Varanasi is a place that is hard to make sense of, for both Hindus and non-Hindus. It takes time to begin fathoming the system at work beneath all the apparent chaos. Reading about Varanasi prior to visiting might walk you through the history of Varanasi and what Hinduism is all about, but the only way to truly understand the multilayered city is to experience it in person.

As philosopher Karl Marx once said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” However, perhaps religion should be seen as more than simply a provider of temporary comfort. These holy rituals and ceremonies are a preservation of traditions that perpetuate cultural values and ideologies – essentially, they’re celebrations of life. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the ghats of Varanasi.


宗教,哲学家卡尔·马克思(Karl Marx)曾说,“它是被压迫生灵的叹息,是无人性世界中的人性,亦是无灵魂之境中的灵魂。宗教是人民的鸦片。”但是,它或许不仅应被认为是短暂的慰藉。宗教中这些神圣的典礼和仪式沿袭了传统,使其文化价值和意识形态得以留存——本质上来说,也是对生命的庆典。而这一点,恰在瓦拉纳西的河坛上表现得淋漓尽致。

Contributor & Photographer: Garima Garg

供稿人与摄影师: Garima Garg

Building Bridges Through Dance

From left: Suleman Malik, Bilal Malik and Nasir Sirikhan.

Quick Style is an Oslo-based international dance group and creative agency best known for their unique style and infusion of various Asian cultures in their projects, with one of their most notable being the Strawhatz concept. The latest manifestation of their passion for dance comes in the form of Quick Style Studio Chinaa collaborative studio created with China’s Sinostage, which debuted last year in Chengdu. With this project, they’re eager to show that dance is an activity anyone can partake in as well as showcase the value of dance as an outlet of creativity and self-expression. Since opening, the joint-run studio has often invited international teachers to open a cross-cultural dialogue with Chengdu’s local community using the language of dance. At a time when many are speaking of building walls, Quick Style shows us how we can build bridges through dance and cultural exchange. To better understand Quick Style’s cross-cultural entrepreneurship efforts, we talked to Bilal Malik, one of the three co-founders of Quick Style, to find out more about their work and experiences in China.

Quick Style是来自挪威奥斯陆的一支国际舞蹈团体和创意机构,向来以独特的创意风格和对各种亚洲文化的融合而闻名,其中最为人熟知的莫过于其推出的Strawhatz 舞蹈项目。Quick Style Studio China正是他们对舞蹈那份热爱的最新见证,这是Quick Style和Sinostage合作创办的工作室。从2016年成立以来,这个工作室已经成为一个文化与创意的中心。这个项目背后的理念是,舞蹈属于所有人,可以让人们以充满创意和健康的方式来表达自我。在当下这个人们相互间“筑墙”设防的时代,Quick Style向人们展示着如何建立起沟通的桥梁。为了加深理解Quick Style在跨文化产业上所作的努力,我们和它的创始人之一Bilal Malik聊了聊,试图了解更多关于他们在中国的工作和经历。

Quick Style teaching a class at the studio in Chengdu.
Koharu Sugawara, world-famous dancer and choreographer from Japan leads a class.

Neocha: How did the idea to start a Quick Style dance studio in China come about? What was it about the country that made it stand out as a potential location for your second studio?

Bilal Malik: The idea came about on our first trip to China. We checked out different dance communities and held workshops all over China. We explored the food, culture, music, people, and different places of China; we also met up with dancers around the country. We realized that it was not like Europe, the U.S., or any other Asian countries we have been to. The dancers here had a lot of emotion. We felt that Chinese dancers have a bright future. We also felt that they would bring a new wave of honest flavor to the whole world dance community. We started talking about how Chinese dancers will grow very fast since people had begun to accept the urban dance lifestyle. It was very clear to us that they are on the right track because they bring all kind of choreographers to teach dance across China.

Then on our last trip, we met Koko, the CEO of Sinostage. She had very different moves than anyone else. She has a passion and mindset that we’ve not seen in many people. She thinks about her people and wants to make dance huge in China, to change people’s lives! We connected very easily. Her passion moved us and we decided very quickly to do business and open a collaborative studio together. Our mission is to provide some Scandinavian mindset to the Chinese community. The country has so much potential. After being in China we have learned a lot. We know that we still have a lot more to learn, and we are sure that whatever we do here, it will be game changing for all of us.

Neocha: 怎么会选择在中国开设Quick Style舞蹈工作室?这个国家具有什么与众不同的潜力吗?

Bilal Malik: 我们第一次来中国时就已经有这个想法。我们在中国各地看到了不同的舞蹈团体,也举办过各种工作坊。我们深入地去了解中国的美食、文化、音乐、人以及不同的地方,去认识各地的舞者。我们意识到,这里不像欧洲、美国或其它我们去过的亚洲国家,这里的舞者有很饱满的情感。中国的舞者前景很大,我们相信,他们能给全世界的舞蹈界带来一种更真实的风格。我们开始谈到一旦人们开始接受urban dance的风格后,中国舞者的数量会增长得非常快。我们非常清楚,中国舞者的发展是在正确的轨道上的,因为他们会把不同风格的舞蹈编导都邀请到中国各地去教学。


Moving in sync - a class with Toby DeeDaran from Oslo, Norway.

Neocha: Can you tell us more about the process of making this project a reality?

Bilal Malik: The process was really interesting when I look back at it. Once we decided to open a studio together with Sinostage, things moved pretty quickly. We got to witness that Chinese people, or especially Koko, do not joke around when they work! We discussed the design and details and she started immediately. Not long after, there we are at the opening. It happened very fast, and we jumped into something very new for all of us. I believe that both parties have learned a lot from the process, and our relationship with Sinostage is still growing every day. Koko is an extremely talented woman and knew our taste even only after knowing us for such a short amount of time. We trusted her on every decision.

Neocha: 能跟我们分享一下是如何实现这个项目的吗?

Bilal Malik: 当我回过头来看,会觉得这个过程其实非常有趣。我们决定和Sinostage一起开办工作室后,一切就进展得很快了。中国人工作时真的很认真,尤其是Koko!我们讨论过设计和细节之后,她就会立即开始行动。感觉一眨眼,我们就到了开幕日。一切都进展得非常快,那是对我们所有人来说全新的体验,双方在过程中都学到了很多,我们与Sinostage的关系也在变得越来越好。Koko是一位非常有才华的女性,在我们相处了很短的时间后,她就已经清楚明白我们的风格。我们很信任她作出的每一个决定。

Welcome to Quick Style X Sinostage

Neocha: You’ve referred to Chengdu as your second home. What is it about that city that makes it so special to you? What traits have you observed that makes it stand out from other cities in China?

Bilal Malik: Chengdu is a special place for us. Of all the places we’ve been in China, Chengdu always treats us well, and we get a different vibe of the city every time we go there. They are definitely leading in terms of style and art. They are open-minded people and the city is growing very fast. There’s always something to do, and we also love the spicy food.

Neocha: 你曾经说过成都是你的第二个家。为什么它对你来说这么特别?就你看来,它和中国的其他城市有什么不同?

Bilal Malik: 成都对我们来说是一个特别的地方。在我们去过的所有中国城市中,成都总能让我们有不错的体验,并且每次去成都,我们都会有不一样的感觉。在时尚和艺术方面,这座城市绝对是领先的。这里的人们思想开放,城市的发展非常迅猛。在这里永远也不会觉得无聊。当然了,我们也很喜欢这里辛辣的美食。



Neocha: Now that Quick Style Chengdu has been open for a year, what kind of changes have you observed in China’s dance scene since?

Bilal Malik: The dance scene has changed a lot in China since we opened the studio. We don’t think it’s only because of us and the dance studio with Sinostage. The whole community is working together every day to make dance huge in China. Right now, China is arranging some of the biggest events, workshops, and TV shows for dance. Sinostage is doing a great job working with everyone, being open-minded, and making the studio open to all kinds of people. I feel that now, Chinese dancers have more confidence and are moving towards finding their own style. More dancers and a higher level of competition both lead to finding an original way of doing things. In addition to this, the dancers put a Chinese flavor into their art and performance, which makes it very unique.

Neocha: Quick Style Studio成立至今已经一年了,这期间你看到国内舞蹈界有没有发生什么变化?

Bilal Malik: 从我们成立了这个工作室之后到现在,中国的舞蹈界发生了很大的变化。当然这不是单靠我们或与Sinostage合作的舞蹈工作室就能带来的变化。而是整个舞蹈界的共同努力,才得以令舞蹈在中国的影响力变得这么大。眼下,中国正在筹办一些和舞蹈有关的大型活动、工作坊和电视节目。Sinostage和所有人的合作都很棒,他们的心态非常包容,欢迎各种各样的人加入。我觉得,现在的中国舞者更自信了,也正在逐渐找到自己独特的风格。越来越多的舞者,越来越高水平的竞争,这些都有助于他们去发现创意。除此之外,他们的作品和表演中因为加入了一些中国风格而变得更加独特。



Neocha: What is the reason behind sending dancers from Quick Style Studio Oslo to Chengdu? Why is this cross-culture exchange so important to you?

Bilal Malik: There are lots of reasons why it’s important for us to send dancers from Oslo to Chengdu. We believe our dancers grow not only in dance by traveling to teach, but grow in a bigger sense by experiencing another culture. Every time dancers from Quick Style come back to Olso, they come back with a bag full of experiences. They become a little bit more mature about their own life. They’ve just spend three months in one of the biggest countries in the world! Being in a place with different language, food, and ways of thinking, they’re challenged by new situations every day. In the end, they come back stronger and see the world differently. In addition to this, the instructors from Oslo represent us in Chengdu. They are there to share with and learn from the other dancers. Overall, it’s a great cultural and artistic exchange.

Neocha:为什么要把Quick Style在奥斯陆的舞者带到成都来?为什么跨文化的交流对你来说如此重要?

Bilal Malik: 之所以把奥斯陆的舞者带到成都是出于很多考虑的。我们的舞者不仅能通过到国外教学来提升自己的舞蹈水平,更能通过体验另一种文化获得更大意义上的成长。每次Quick Style的舞者回到奥斯陆,他们都是带着丰富经验回来的。他们的人生态度也会变得更加成熟。毕竟他们在全球最大的国家之一生活了三个月啊!在这种有着不同语言、食物和思维方式的地方,他们每天都会遇到新的情况,新的挑战。最后,他们回来时会变得更强大,也能够用不同的角度去看待世界。除此之外,去成都教学的奥斯陆舞者就代表着我们。他们去那里是去分享的,也是去跟其他舞者学习的。总的来说,这是一次非常棒的文化和艺术交流。



Neocha: What is your approach to teaching dance?

Bilal Malik: We really do not see ourselves as teachers or our workshops as being regular “dance” classes. We feel that we share ourselves more than teach them something specific. We can’t teach anyone to dance. We believe everyone can dance. We feel sharing ourselves with people in our workshop will open some gate in their mind, to grow or learn something that can make either a small or big change in their life.  We are happy to continue sharing because over the years we’ve witnessed tremendous change in many people lives – that is our biggest motivation today.

Neocha: 你是如何传授舞蹈的?

Bilal Malik: 我们真的不认为自己是老师,我们的工作坊也不是普通意义上的舞蹈课堂。更多的是分享,而不是去教什么具体的东西。你是不能教人跳舞的。因为我们相信,每个人都会跳舞。但是通过分享,我们可以帮他们变得更放得开,去成长或学习,让他们的生活产生或大或小的改变。我们很高兴可以继续这样的分享,因为多年来,我们已经见证了很多人在生活上发生的巨大变化,而这也是我们今天最大的动力。



Neocha: If you think about the bigger picture and the vision for Quick Style, what role does China or Asia in general play in it?

Bilal Malik: For Quick Style’s vision for the future, China – and Asia as a whole – is very important for us. We grew up as Asians in a Western country like Norway. We see ourselves as Norwegian with a unique cultural understanding because of our strong cultural ties through our families. We were lucky to grow up in a place that’s very open-minded. Many people or countries do not have that privilege. We believe we have the experience, knowledge, and sensitivity to build cultural bridges between different countries. Whenever we interact with people, we choose to go deeper and find what people really feel and like because we care about them.

Asia is a very important place for us. You can find inspiration and discover strong cultural roots almost everywhere. We really believe that art is for everyone and that art is a very important thing for the society. This is why we want to make sure we continue to inspire people with our art and keep growing the movement of creative and cultural interactions.

Neocha: 如果你从整体来看,从Quick Style的愿景来考虑,中国或亚洲扮演什么角色?

Bilal Malik: 在Quick Style的未来规划中,中国和亚洲都是非常重要的。我们是在像挪威这样的西方国家长大的亚裔。我们是有着独特文化见解的挪威人,那是我们家庭所带来的深厚文化联系。我们很幸运,可以成长在一个开明的国家里。很多人或国家就没这么幸运了。我们相信,我们有足够丰富的经验、知识和敏感度,去在不同国家之间建立文化桥梁。每当我们与别人互动时,都会真的去深入地了解他们真正的感受和喜好,因为我们真的关心他们。


"We believe everyone can dance." - Bilal Malik

Facebook: @thequickstyle
YouTube: ~/TheQuickStyle
Instagram: @thequickstyle
Twitter: @thequickstyle


Contributor: Aleesha Suleman
Images & Videos Courtesy of Quick Style & Sinostage

脸书: @thequickstyle
YouTube: ~/TheQuickStyle
Instagram: @thequickstyle
推特: @thequickstyle


供稿人: Aleesha Suleman
图片与视频由Quick Style与Sinostage提供


Written in not-so-perfect English, a sign at the Bangkok Railway Station reads, “Travelling by Train is Comfort, Economical, Fast and Safe.” This nostalgic form of transport has long piqued the curiosity of Thai photographer, Watcharawit Phudork, who created his series, DELAYED, centered around the 19-hour train journey from Bangkok to his hometown of Hat Yai.

乘火车旅行,舒适、经济、快速、安全”—— 这是曼谷火车站的一个标语。这种传统交通方式,激起了泰国摄影师Watcharawit Phudork的好奇心,将镜头对准从曼谷到他的家乡合艾共19个小时的火车旅程,创作出摄影系列《DELAYED》(晚点)。

Phudork notes that whilst other forms of transportation excel both in speed and economically, there is a still a sizable demand for Thailand’s slowest form of domestic travel. With a mind full of questions and a camera in hand, he bought the cheapest ticket available and embarked on his near day-long journey home.


The subjects of DELAYED are noticeably from an older generation; commuters who likely accepted their longer journeys as the norm. The half empty, run down carriages inspired Phudork to explore the other side of railway travel; the inevitable abandonment caused by dwindling demand. His second series, Out of Service, lead him to visit Hat Yai train garage, where worn out train compartments are sent for repair or abandonment.

DELAYED》镜头下的对象大都是上了年纪的人;他们早已习惯了如此漫长的旅途。残旧的车厢中有一半的座位都是空的,受此启发,Phudork又去探讨火车旅行的另一面——需求下降后,那些被扔弃的火车。在第二个摄影系列《Out of Service》(停止服务)中,他前往合艾火车车库,这里堆满了送来维修和废弃的火车车厢。

“Every compartment will be brought to a garage, even if they are in a completely bad condition,” he says. This includes the compartments that were near obliterated during a bombing by the South Thailand insurgency, the remains of which have been left behind alongside other trains to wither away with passing time. Today, Phudork works out of Bangkok and continues to tell stories of disappearing slices of Thai culture through his trusty lens.


Website: watcharawit.wixsite.com
Instagram: @watcharawitwat


Contributor: Whitney Ng

网站: watcharawit.wixsite.com
Instagram: @watcharawitwat


供稿人: Whitney Ng

The Long Journey

Johan Chomet is a French photographer born in Paris. In 2013, he set out on The Long Journey, a series of travels that led him overland through Europe, Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Nepal. Most recently, Johan’s journey took him to Seoul, South Korea, where he captured a series of images that present his perspective of the city. Johan tells Neocha more about his work and his travels below.

Johan Chomet是来自法国巴黎的摄影师。2013年,他上了《The Long Journey》,进行了一场跨越欧洲、俄罗斯、蒙古、中国、日本、越南、泰国、缅甸和尼泊尔的漫长旅程。最近,Johan又去了韩国的首尔,在那里,他拍摄了许多照片,记录下他眼中的这座城市。Johan跟Neocha分享了许多关于他的作品与旅行的故事。

Neocha: What’s your process for planning your travels?

Johan: I never have a plan or route. I don’t try to organize anything in advance. I usually get transportation and visa sorted to my first destination and then take it from there. It gives me a lot more freedom as I don’t have to be somewhere at any specific time and can change my plans at the last minute if I feel like it. I also try not to have any time constraints.

Traveling overland is a totally different experience. You have to endure every kilometer of your trip, you have to find your way, and you have to deal with uneasy, sometimes unpleasant, situations. But you also get to live and share so much more. You see the landscapes changing and get to meet people along the way. To me, travel means freedom. It means adventures, meeting people, seeing things from a different perspective, and obviously photography! Travel and photography can hardly be separated for me.

Neocha: 你是怎样计划你的旅行的?

Johan: 我从来不会做计划或设计路线,我不喜欢提前计划好任何事情。我一般只会先把第一个目的地的交通和签证办好,然后就出发。这样我可以有更多的自由,因为我不需要在特定的时间到达某个特定的地方,也可以随时改变计划。我也尽量不给自己时间上的限制。


Neocha: How did your trip to Seoul come about?

Johan: I really had no idea about what to expect when I decided to go to Seoul. I had been in Japan for a few months and my visa was expiring, meaning that I had to leave the country for a while. South Korea had always been on my list, and I was really looking forward to seeing it for myself, as for some reason I never got to see many images of the country. When I got to Seoul, it took me about 24 hours and a lot of walking around the city to take my first photo. Things were a lot less accessible and obvious than in Japan, and it felt like I had to soak it all in before I could start taking any photographs.

Neocha: 为什么会想要去首尔?

Johan: 我一开始决定去首尔的时候,我真的没有带着什么特别的期望。当时我已经在日本呆了几个月,签证快要过期,所以我要离开日本一会儿。韩国一直是我想要去的国家之一,我也很期待去这个国家,但不知道为什么,我一直很少机会看到关于这个国家的图片。刚到首尔的时候,我在这座城市里逛了很久,过了快24小时才拍下第一张照片。比起日本,这里的一切更难以接触,更隐晦,感觉就像我必须要深入其中,才能拍到想要的照片。

Neocha: What were some of your first impressions of the city?

Johan: Seoul had been very confusing for me at first, as I could see very little related to its past and history, and what I could see did not always feel coherent. Architecture in many parts of the city made me feel like I was in some sort of communist country with all these identical concrete buildings shaping the landscape, and just a few kilometers away you’d find yourself walking on huge avenues filled with hundreds of high-end shops, and you’d be reminded that you were in a country that’s embraced capitalism like no other.

Another thing that struck me was the overabundance of churches everywhere. Every direction you look, you’d see them – red neon crosses that have invaded Seoul’s skyline. Talking about neon, it’s something I’ve been shooting a lot of lately. I love the light and the atmosphere that it creates. Neon definitely feels a little bit retro, but at the same time, it keeps us fantasizing about these futuristic vertical metropolises.

Neocha: 你对这座城市的第一印象是什么?

Johan: 一开始,首尔让我感到很困惑,我很难看到这座城市与其过去和历史的关联,我所看到的事物也总是感觉不是很一致。很多地方的建筑让我感觉这是一个共产主义国家,一模一样的凝土建筑物,组成了这座城市的景观,然后仅几公里之外,就是宽阔的商业大道,充满数以百计间高端商店,这时你才会意识到,这也是个不折不扣的资本主义国家。


Neocha: As a film photographer, what are your thoughts on the film versus digital debate?

Johan: There shouldn’t be any final conclusion about film or digital – they both have their pros and cons. Digital is easy to use, convenient, accessible to everyone, and gives flawless results. Unlike film, the processing is instantaneous, costless, and allows for endless post-processing modification. As always, industries deliver what consumers are asking for.

Film is expensive and frustrating. There’s no insane post-processing to make dull images look great in the end. You can’t take hundreds of photos in a day, hoping to have a good one in the end or take the same photo over and over again until it looks good on-screen. You have to get it right the first time, and this is without a doubt the best way to learn. Shooting mechanical cameras and film gives me the feeling that I’m part of the process, that I’m in control, and that I’m actually making the photo. Working with film, I realized that I was spending a lot more time on framing and working on composition, and more importantly, I would not rely solely on the camera for the result. If your photos are not good enough, you can’t blame the autofocus or justify it by the fact that you didn’t have the money for that ISO 204800 camera. If your photos aren’t good, it’s simply because you’re not a good photographer. Technology in photography doesn’t make things better. It just makes things more convenient.

Neocha: 作为一名用胶片拍摄的摄影师,你对于胶片摄影与数码摄影之间的争论有什么看法?

Johan: 对于胶片摄影与数码摄影之间的争论,应该永远也不会有最后结论,这两者都有各自的优点和弊处。数码摄影更容易、更方便,所有人都可以使用,拍出来的照片也很不错。与胶片摄影不同,数码摄影即时显像,不需要成本,也可以有无休止的后期修改。每个行业都会努力提供消费者所需要的产品,这一点向来如此。

而胶片摄影的成本更高,也往往容易令人沮丧,你不可以疯狂地进行后期处理,将一张原本平庸的照片变成一幅棒极了的照片;你也不能一天拍好几百张照片,然后指望其中会有一张好照片;或是一遍又一遍地拍同一张照片,直到在你屏幕上的照片看起来不错。你必须在第一次按快门就拍好,所以这无疑是学习摄影的最佳途径。用机械胶片相机和胶片拍摄,让我感觉自己成为了这个创作过程的一部分,我有控制权,我感觉这才是真正地在创作一张照片。用胶片拍摄时,我发现自己会花更多时间思考构图,更重要的是,我不会全然依赖相机。如果你的照片不够好,你不能说是自动对焦的问题,也没有藉口说是因为你没有足够的钱,买一台ISO 204800的相机。如果你的照片不够好,只是因为你不是一个好的摄影师。在摄影方面,科技不会让照片拍得更好。它只会让拍照变得更方便。

Neocha: How would you summarize your approach to photography, and what are some recurring themes in your work?

Johan: I used to take a lot of photos of people in busy places, mostly cities, of people in motion, people that would catch my attention. I’ve never tried to make any specific statement with my photos. I just want my photographs to be a reflection of a time and place. They’re just snapshots. I usually go out walking with a camera in my hand and take photos of the things that I react to. I don’t believe photography should be too cerebral, and I try not to overthink my shots. I like spontaneous things.

As I mentioned, film photography changed my approach a little. It forced me to take my time. It helped me to be more patient, and so I started to photograph things differently – more still images, pictures with no people, empty spaces. I also started paying more attention to colors and geometry. When I’m traveling, things are also a bit different. I try to build a series rather than taking a bunch of candid shots without any specific theme.

Neocha: 你如何描述自己的摄影方式,你的作品中的常见主题有哪些?

Johan: 我曾经拍过很多人们在繁忙地方的照片,大多是在城市,拍摄一些行动中的人们,拍摄那些会引起我注意的人。我从来没有试图在我的照片中表达某种特定的态度。我只想通过自己的照片记录某个时刻和地方……它们只是一张张快照。我通常拿着相机就出门散步,看到想拍的事物就拍下来。我认为摄影的时候不需要思考太多的事情,我在拍摄时尽量不去考虑太多。我喜欢自然而然的东西。


Neocha: Are there any particular themes or lasting impressions from your series in Seoul?

Johan: Culturally, It feels like there’s this huge gap with massive differences of interests and lifestyle between generations. South Korea, and Seoul probably even more, has been changing so much and in such a short period of time. Because so many younger generations of South Koreans are able to travel and study abroad, I guess many came back with a different idea of what they wanted for their country and for their lives. South Korea has been heavily impacted by Western culture, but it feels like its people managed to adapt and blend it to their own culture, making it theirs. I definitely want to go back to South Korea and focus more on the youth next time.



Neocha: What is your personal philosophy towards photography? What does photography mean to you?

Johan: To me, photography is about accurately remembering and capturing real life for future generations. Photographers are witnesses of time, documenting life. Some photographers are talented enough to add emotions and beauty to their images, to get reactions out of their viewers. I hope that people can see my photographs in 30, 40, 50 years in a different context. Who knows what will have become of photography and the world in general by then.

My relation to photography is very personal – it’s almost a kind of therapy for me. Walking with a camera in my hands is one of the rare moments when I manage to completely focus my mind on what I’m doing. It forces me to be in the moment, and it stimulates me. It keeps me curious and gives me the motivation to make new projects, or even just to simply go outside and do something.

Neocha: 关于摄影,你的个人理念是什么?摄影对你来说意味着什么?

Johan: 对我来说,摄影是要准确地记录和捕捉当下的现实生活,留给未来的人们看。摄影师是时间的证人,生活的记录者。一些才华横溢的摄影师能把情感和美融入到他们的照片中,引起观众的情感共鸣。我希望在30、40或50年后,不同时代的人们可以看到我的照片。谁知道到时候,摄影和世界会变成怎么样呢?




Contributor: George Zhi Zhao



供稿人: George Zhi Zhao

A Route of Contrasts



Cesar Ruiz Preciado is a Spain-based UX designer who, beyond design alone, has found a passion for the art of filmmaking. This interest stems from his travels and his enjoyment of capturing realistic portraits of local life. In Vietnam, the newly released addition to his series of short travel films, Preciado traverses the entirety of the beautiful country from north to south. Traveling on a combination of motorcycles, bicycles, trains, and boats, Preciado explores the tropical jungles of Sapa and Tam Coc as well as the hectic, moped-filled streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. He describes his journey through Vietnam as an exhilarating experience filled with contrasts.

Cesar Ruiz Preciado是一名居住在西班牙的UX设计师。设计之外,他也是一位热爱拍摄短片的电影人,Preciado喜欢在旅行的时候用镜头记录下所去之地的风土人情。 短片《Vietnam》正是他旅行短片系列的其中一部。从越南北部的河内市一路向南到达胡志明市,他骑过摩托车和自行车,也乘过火车和船,经过了Sapa (沙壩)和Tam Coc (宁平)的原始丛林,再去往塞满路人和摩托车的繁忙城市,Preciado形容这是一场充满对比碰撞的旅途。

Website: ruizpreciado.com
Vimeo: ~/ruizpreciado


Contributor: Ye Zi



供稿人: Ye Zi

People of the Music



The shrine has a mosque-like roof, white as a meringue. People, some in robes, walk among evergreen trees laden with jackfruit. It’s the rainy season in Bangladesh and everything is hot and wet. Muhammed Ali fixes us with a calm gaze beneath authoritarian eyebrows. Behind him, a woman sweeps around the grave of saint Lalon Shah and that of his mother. The two six-foot-long prisms are covered with patterned material and spicy smoke threads through latticed burners. More of Lalon’s disciples are buried outside the small mausoleum. Ali points out one of the graves. “My father lies there. I inherited the role of caretaker from him,” he says. He takes us to the main hall. We slip off our shoes and step onto cool, white stone. Inside, devotees recline in the midday heat. Women and children sit around bags of spicy peas and rotis, their saris the color of oak and red squirrels and emerald. Lalon Shah lived and taught here, in Kushtia, Bangladesh, throughout the 19th century. He died in 1890 aged over 100 years old.

这座陵墓的白色屋顶充满清真寺风格,看上去像是一块巨型蛋糖霜。常绿乔木菠萝蜜树林中,人来人往,其中还穿插着穿着长袍的僧人。正值孟加拉雨季,一切炎热又潮湿。Muhammed Ali凝视着我们,目光平静而肃穆。在他身后,一个女人正在清扫圣人Lalon Shah和他母亲的陵墓。两个六英尺长的棱柱,被布满花纹图案的材料覆盖着,一缕缕刺激的烟雾从镂空的焚烧器里飘出来。Lalon的其他弟子被埋在了小陵墓的外面。Ali指着其中一处墓地,说:“我的父亲就埋在那儿。我继承了他管理者的职位。”我们跟着他来到主殿,脱掉鞋子,踏上冰冷的石头地板。在炎热的正午,信徒们正在殿内斜躺着。女人和儿童围着一袋袋辣豌豆和罗蒂斯坐着,头上戴着橡木色、红棕色和翡翠绿色的纱丽布。19世纪的时候,Lalon Shah就在孟加拉的库什蒂亚这里生活和教课。1890年逝世时,他的年龄已经超过100岁。

“Lalon was one of the most influential mystic saints of the Indian subcontinent. He inspired millions with his songs,” says Lalim Haque, a researcher and Lalon expert. “His lyrics are so profound. He has been able to touch the lives of not only people who have a taste for music but all people.” Haque said Lalon’s songs, especially when heard in their original Bangla, have the power to propel people to spiritual heights. Estimated to have composed thousands of songs, Lalon and his followers went on to influence 20th-century greats like Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagor, American poet Allan Ginsberg, and even Bob Dylan. To contemporary Bangladeshis, he’s like Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr., and Eckhart Tolle rolled into one.

Lalim Haque是一名研究学者和Lalon专家,他说:“Lalon 是印度最有影响力的神秘圣人之一。他用音乐激励着无数的人。他的歌词如此深刻,他所触动的不仅仅是爱好音乐的人,而是所有人的生活。”Haque觉得,Lalon的音乐,特别是当它们以原始孟加拉语唱出时,拥有提升人们精神境界的力量。据估计,Lalon和他的追随者谱写了上千首歌曲,许多20世纪的文学和音乐才子都受到过他们音乐的影响,譬如印度诗人泰戈尔(Rabindranath Tagor),战后“垮掉的一代”代表诗人艾伦·金斯堡(Allan Ginsberg)和民谣歌手鲍勃·迪伦(Bob Dylan)。对于现代孟加拉人来说,他就像是集莎士比亚(Shakespeare)、马丁·路德(Martin Luther King)和心灵作家艾克哈特·托勒(Eckhart Tolle)于一身的伟人。

Outside the shrine, there is a park overlooked by a ten-foot portrait of Lalon. The air wafts of weed and tobacco. Rumana, a former lawyer, has been a full-time Baul for 22 years. She plants a clay pipe between her fingers, cups her hands and inhales. She is charismatic, intelligent, and, unlike many of her companions, reveals clean white teeth whenever she smiles, which is often. She can speak English but refuses to be interviewed until we come back with a translator, saying that Bengla is the only language she can use to describe these sacred things.

在陵墓之外的一个公园里,放置着一个高达10英尺的Lalon雕像。雕像上布满了杂草和烟草。前律师 Rumana 已经是一名有 22 年经验的全职巴乌尔。她的手指间夹着一根陶土烟斗,她双手掬起,吸了一口烟。她是一位漂亮而聪明的女性,还很喜欢笑,和她的许多同伴不同,她在笑的时候,会露出一口洁白的牙齿。她会说英语,但拒绝用英语接受采访,直到我们带回了一位会说孟加拉语的翻译,她才肯接受采访。她说,神圣之物只能用孟加拉语来讲述。

After returning with a translator, she tells us that she smokes weed every day to help focus and access a meditative state. “We believe that Lalon’s songs are as important as the verses in the Quran. In Islamic law people are obliged to recite verses from the Quran every day; similarly, we Bauls sing Lalon’s songs every day,” Rumana says. She exhales a plume of smoke and passes the pipe to a friend with a matted beard and bloodshot eyes. She picks up her ektara and starts to pluck, making up for her rudimentary singing talents with her sincerity. Her bearded companion calls for tea, prompting a sari-swathed woman in a nearby stall to bawl at her daughter, who jumps up and soon arrives with tiny cups of tea that would be unpalatably strong were it not for the large scoops of sugar.

有了翻译之后,她告诉我们,她每天都会抽食大麻,这样可以帮助她集中精神,达到冥想的状态。“我们相信,Lalon的音乐和在《古兰经》的经文一样重要。伊斯兰教法要求人们每天诵读《古兰经》;同样的,我们巴乌尔人也会每天唱颂 Lalon的音乐。”Rumana 说。她呼出一口烟,将烟斗传给旁边的友人。她的朋友长着一脸乱蓬蓬的胡子,双眼布满了血丝。她拿起Ektara(孟加拉单弦琴),开始弹奏。虔诚的心弥补了她质朴的歌声。她留着胡须的友人向邻近一个摊档点了一杯茶,裹着纱丽的女摊主把蹦蹦跳跳的女儿叫来,让她把几杯茶端来。如果不是加了好几大勺的糖,这些茶会浓得难以下咽。

Muhammed Ali places his teacup down on the shrine floor and strokes his beard. Behind him, a Baul group start to sing “A Strange Bird,” one of Lalon’s favorite songs. Below is the song translated by Azfar Hussain.

“Look, how a strange bird flits in and out of the cage!

O mind, you are a bird encaged! And of green sticks
Is your cage made, but it will be broken one day.
Lalon says: Open the cage, look how the bird wings away!”

Even though I don’t understand Bengla, the song touches my heart with its longing; it makes me want to rush over to someone and fling open my arms. There is no applause when it’s over, instead, the Bauls bless a finished song by praising the lord, saying “shai shai, shai shai.”

Muhammed Ali将茶杯放在陵墓地板上,捋着他的胡子。在他身后,一群巴乌尔音乐人开始哼唱Lalon最喜欢的歌《一只怪鸟》(A Strange Bird),Azfar Hussain翻译了其中的歌词。



尽管我不懂孟加拉语,但这首歌所诠释的渴望之情触动了我的心;它使我想要跑向某人的怀中,张开我的双臂。歌声结束时,没有掌声。因为一般歌唱完毕后,巴乌尔音乐人喜欢说一个词来代替掌声,他们会说:“shai shai(我的主), shai shai(我的主)”。

Contributors: Nathan ThompsonJeremy Meek
Photographer & Videographer: Jeremy MeekNathan Thompson

供稿人: Nathan Thompson, Jeremy Meek
图片与视频摄影师: Jeremy MeekNathan Thompson