Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

July 15, 2008

Landscape photo as social commentary

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Doug Stockdale @ 8:20 pm

I am where my emotional connection is developing with regard to my photographic projects from Eastern China, specifically the industrial landscape, such as this photograph. Kinda like the let down that occurs weeks, months or even years after a tragic life event occurs.

At some point, the defenses are far enough down that the events wash over and you make the emotional connection.

Regarding China, I like many others, know about their oppressive government. They said shit and you had better squat. They say move your household goods because this place will very soon be a road. And in a short time, the place is a road. But sitting here in Southern California, I did not connect with the scale of the events in China, nor make an emotional connection with those affected by the dictated changes. I was here and they are there.

And honestly, it was during my third trip into Eastern China did the connections start to occur. The first trip was a one-week whirl wind, and I was overwhelmed with the cultural changes. My senses were short circuited. The second trip was a little longer, but then our group was herded from place to place, not much free time. And free time in Shanghai and Hongqaio, was like many a large foreign city, with much of the infrastructure changes already completed.

The last trip, when I was left to my own accord in a small city, to walk about and look and see, I saw things. Easy to find examples of “one foot in the boat, one on the shore”. As I could see the resulting or pending changes, I wonder how do they feel about all of this. Do they feel the threat, the uncertainty, the instability? Is it resignation to what will be? Many, if not most, of the local Chinese that I met during my walks and the folks in the factories I worked with, were up beat, happy and did not appeared to be “oppressed”. You can feel and sense when folks are scared, they are reclusive, guarded, suspicious and have a way of looking at you that you feel that you are being scrutinized.

The massive changes I was witnessing, wiping out and replacing the old infrastructure, perhaps is veiewed differently by many Chinese, perhaps as a good thing. They might now have indoor plumbing, bright and open homes, secure facilities and a vast improvement in their lives. That this is progress and an opportunity to better themselves. I don’t really know. So to try to portray the landscape that I perceive in a way that runs counter to what they might perceive is a slippery path at best.

So I do not try to get onto a soap box with my photograhs, but try to present things as I see them. Which I now find myself trying not to become head-strong with my Chinese photographs.  Can all of these be tied up in one series (story) or are this a case of mulitiple mini-series (short stories) that might bundle up to a bigger story? Sigh.

So I continue to develop these photographs and I will make up my mind as to what will be in due time.

Best regards, Doug

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