"YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS ARE AS DAZZLING AS YOUR SUBJECTS"

Sunday, May 31, 2009

THE SILK ROAD II: BASHFUL IN BUKHARA


BASHFUL IN BUKHARA


BUKHARA (UZBEKISTAN) USSR 1984 

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 
ON FARAWAY STREETS 

You have been introduced to one of the monuments of the Silk Road city of Bukhara; now meet a few of its people


Saturday, May 30, 2009

MAGIC WATERS IN THE DESERT: LIMA, PERU


MAGIC WATERS IN THE DESERT
TROUBLES IN THE AMAZON


For an almost-summer weekend, something light from an almost-summer evening in Lima, Peru. 

To wit, a light (and music) and water show from the Circuito Magico del Agua -- the "Magic Water Circuit" -- in a city in the desert. 

Something like a third of the twenty-seven-million population of Peru is said to live in its capital, Lima, tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. 

Meanwhile, out in Amazonian Peru, there has been since April an on-going protest over indigenous rights and mineral rights. Three weeks ago the government imposed a sixty-day local state of emergency. 

President Alan Garcia, who proudly hosted the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit last November, is keen to promote development. He is quoted as having said that "The riches of Peru belong to all Peruvians," and the benefits should not go only to the "small group of people who live there." 

Back in the capital yesterday (May 29), Prime Minister Yehude Simon threatened to resign

The Magic Water Circuit, located in the Reserve Park in the Santa Beatriz district of Lima, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. It perhaps becomes most magical as night falls. 

More on the crisis, which has turned deadly, here (check under June 6, 2009).


More "PERU SCENES


Friday, May 29, 2009

JFK ON THE GINZA


"JOHN F. KENNEDY" 
ON THE GINZA 


AN AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ICON ... 
IN JAPAN 

IN HONOR OF JFK, BORN ON THIS DATE 
IN 1917, IN BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS
PRESIDENT, 
JANUARY 20, 1961-NOVEMBER 22, 196

In 1981, en route to China for my first visit, I had a chance to dash downtown to Tokyo for an hour-and-a-half, and grabbed it. 

I was back in the country where I lived for a year as a child, in the town of Sasebo, and where, at age eight, I had taken my first photographs. 

And what did I see but an image of our slain president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in a store front window on the Ginza – being used to sell glasses. 

Such is the power of icons and the mystery of iconography, and of cross-cultural exchanges.  

Thursday, May 28, 2009

THE SILK ROAD I: NADIR DIVAN BEG MADRASA, BUKHARA


NADIR DIVAN BEG MADRASA 


Today, something from the world of Islam – something beautiful, and something a bit unusual. Shown above is a close-up of the pishtaq (a "portal projecting from the facade of a building") of the Nadir Divan Beg Madrasa in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara is a Silk Road city, Persian-influenced, over two millennia old.   The UNESCO World Heritage Committee calls it "the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia." It was once "the largest center for Muslim theology in the Near East";  a madrasa (madrasah, medresseh) is a school, a school for the study of Islamic religion and thought

The Nadir Divan Beg Madrasa, built in 1622, was, the story goes, originally meant to be a caravanserai. This is supposed to somewhat soften the violation of the Islamic prohibition against the depiction of living creatures:  better on an inn for trading caravans than on a religious institution. 

But then, phoenixes (above) are only mythical, no?  And the human (man?) in the sun? As to the two white deer (one shown above), well, perhaps they may be called "stylized." 

When I visited Bukhara in 1984 and photographed the madrasa, Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan has been independent since the end of 1991. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

OTHER WEDDINGS II: QINGDAO, CHINA

TO THE BELL TOWER 


QINGDAO, CHINA

Red is the traditional color for brides in China. But though the young woman in this couple is dressed in white, in a "Western" gown, tradition has not been altogether neglected. Observe the touches of red. 

Here, in 1994, a video camera (behind the wedding couple) is also coming up the stairs to the heights of the Bell Tower. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A RAINY DAY IN THE PROVINCES: ROSTOV-ON-THE-DON

A RAINY DAY IN THE PROVINCES
ON THE EVE OF PERESTROIKA

Lenin Billboard and Car, Rostov-on-the-Don (Russia), USSR, 1984, Photographed by Gwendolyn Stewart, c. 2009; All Rights Reserved

LENIN BILLBOARD & CAR
ROSTOV-ON-THE-DON (RUSSIA), USSR

THINKING AGAIN ABOUT COMMUNISM, III

The USSR on the Eve of Perestroika: "To Us the Most Precious Is the Preservation of Peace" -- V.I. Lenin," the slogan on the billboard says. The year is 1984.

Lenin had died in 1924. (More in HERE BE GIANTS)

Friday, May 22, 2009

THE FALL OF COMMUNISM II


SHIFT CHANGE 

Katowice Coal Mine, Poland, 1981 
THE FALL OF COMMUNISM II
Speaking of the fall (or not) of communism ("All Rise," May 21, 2009), we are in the primetime of the twentieth anniversaries of the fall of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. 
The year 1989 saw the second "Springtime of Nations." In astonishment, and uncertainty, the outside world, and even the political actors within the various members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, watched as events unfolded and limits were pushed. 
Now, twenty years later, the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, serves as a stand-in for all the regime changes that year. And the violent climax of the downfall of all the Soviet-bloc regimes in Eastern Europe came on Christmas Day, in Romania, when the just-deposed former leader Nicolae Ceausescu -- and his wife -- were executed by firing squad. 
But the Polish story should not be overlooked.  Timothy Garton-Ash believes "to this day that the Round Table - that is to say, the negotiated revolution - was a particularly Polish discovery, and is in a way Poland’s gift from 1989 to the world." 


The backstory includes the founding of the Solidarity trade union in Poland in August 1980, and its rise and rise until it was crushed in December 1981. When I took photographs all over Poland in the summer of 1981 (including the coal miners in Katowice, above), it was obvious how entrenched Solidarity was in the workplaces, and in society more generally.  At its height, there were said to be ten million members, out of a population of thirty-some million. 
  
That summer, and into the fall, there was nervous speculation as to whether the Soviet Union would invade; it was the era of Leonid Brezhnev and the Brezhnev Doctrine ('what we have, we hold'). But in the end, on December 13, 1981, Poland's own leaders imposed martial law.  Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders 
were thrown in jail. 
Solidarity came back to life again after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow and seemed to embrace the possibilities of reform in other communist countries besides his own.  Still, as Garton-Ash testifies, "You have to remember that nobody knew what would happen next and nobody knew what the Soviet Union would accept." 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

ALL RISE: OBAMA & THE FALL OF COMMUNISM


ALL RISE


The 16th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party

OBAMA & THE FALL OF COMMUNISM
THE FALL? WAS WHEN EXACTLY?

Today, in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama made a rather strange statement for someone who is supposed to be so bright, and who is in charge of the national security apparatus of the U.S. 

Here is the wind-up: "Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an empire to the strongest nation in the world." 

Okay. Then:
Enemy soldiers… strong alliances …

Then, "It's the reason why we've been able to overpower the iron fist of fascism and outlast the iron curtain of communism, and enlist free nations and free peoples everywhere in the common cause and common effort of liberty." 

"…outlast the iron curtain of communism.…"

Oh, yes? The People's Republic of China, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, has fallen? (and the regimes in Cuba, and North Korea, and Vietnam…?) 

Twenty-five years ago, President
Ronald Reagan came back from his first trip to what he had been pleased to call "
Red China" and spoke of the "so-called Communist China." This in 1984. 

In the fall of 2007, at the time of the most recent Chinese Communist Party Congress, I showed an American in Beijing a copy of the photograph above, taken at the previous Congress, the 16th (November 2002). He looked at the giant hammer and sickle and said,
Oh, Russia.

Whatever one may think of what has happened since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Communists have not 
ruled there since December 1991, while in China they go on and on. So far. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BUDDY GUY SINGS THE BLUES



BUDDY GUY 
HIGHLIGHTS 


A concert photograph from back when, in honor of blues legend Buddy Guy's role in Bertrand Tavernier's film, In The Electric Mist, made from the novel, In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, by Grand Master James Lee Burke. 

The book and the movie are set in Louisiana, where Buddy Guy was born, and the past is, Burke and Tavernier tell us, still very much with us. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CHINA THEN & NOW: MAID & CHILD

CHINA THEN & NOW
MAID & CHILD, NANJING 1981



In 1981, the People's Republic of China was on the cusp of major change. The Third Plenum of the Eleventh Congress late in 1978 had seen Deng Xiaoping's return to power and a new line proclaimed. When I first went to China almost two and a half years later, the new line had begun to be implemented, but ordinary people were not yet sure that it would triumph, and the new policies endure. 

The first, sometimes tentative shoots could be seen in, for example, "free markets" -- as in a farmers' market in Yan'an. Under Mao Zedong the exploitation of labor had been frowned on, but in Nanjing I found a lower-ranking cadre who had a maid for his small child (above).

Cremation had been promoted in Mao's "New China." Burial in graves was discouraged as wasteful of scarce land. Yet in Ji'an in June 1981 I came across an early-morning funeral procession, which quickened its pace and tried to escape notice when discovered. 

More generally I recorded both the distinctive city scenes and historical sites and the everyday activities of farming and eating and buying and selling and transporting goods to market and living life

Now these photographs and many others taken in 1981 and since are being collected in a book:  "HERE BE GIANTS."