The FB black and white challenge

Added on by Annie Ling.

The recent 5 day FBBW set of images and the stories behind them mark in a nutshell some struggle and growth as a photographer these past five years. It's a pleasure to share again this selection from my archive with you, in case you missed it on Facebook.

Before I dig into these images and what they mean to me, I want to thank the one and only 
Juliana Beasley for nominating me for this challenge. We are all so busy and while there are much more pressing things in life than posting B&W photos from our past onto a platform like FB, this experience really opened up an opportunity to reconnect with friends that have helped shaped and supported my work... Carving out some time to reflect on the past has been very revealing and I'm better for having accepted the challenge. 

I also nominated five terrific colleagues: Nadia Sablin, Katja Heinemann, Katy HaasDevin Yalkin, and Gabriele Stabile who do some extraordinary work. Enjoy!

Day 1 This image is from the first roll of 120film I ever shot on a medium-format camera, back in 2009 in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. In Feb of 2009, six months after I first moved to NYC, I lost everything in a fatal tenement fire. I'll never forget the generosity of friends like Brendon Stuart, who helped me start over and let me borrow his plastic Chinese-made twin-lens Seagull camera when I returned my homeless self back to Canada shortly after. During a time of soul-searching that ensued, I found myself seeing the world in a different way, which may have metamorphosed the way I photograph since. I found comfort in a novel and slower process, working in two-and-a-quarter for the first time, making a connection (in this instance) through the viewfinder with a young boy I met on the edge of Lake Ontario. He seemed lost inside his own head and confused, as I watched him pace back and forth in his socks on the concrete pier. This photograph reminds me of a time when I was also lost, but my body knew better... it had the right instinct to approach him, to pause, and to connect in a moment of shared vulnerability.


Day 1

This image is from the first roll of 120film I ever shot on a medium-format camera, back in 2009 in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. In Feb of 2009, six months after I first moved to NYC, I lost everything in a fatal tenement fire. I'll never forget the generosity of friends like Brendon Stuart, who helped me start over and let me borrow his plastic Chinese-made twin-lens Seagull camera when I returned my homeless self back to Canada shortly after.

During a time of soul-searching that ensued, I found myself seeing the world in a different way, which may have metamorphosed the way I photograph since. I found comfort in a novel and slower process, working in two-and-a-quarter for the first time, making a connection (in this instance) through the viewfinder with a young boy I met on the edge of Lake Ontario. He seemed lost inside his own head and confused, as I watched him pace back and forth in his socks on the concrete pier. This photograph reminds me of a time when I was also lost, but my body knew better... it had the right instinct to approach him, to pause, and to connect in a moment of shared vulnerability.

Day 2 This is a portrait of Davina, an inspiring lady who is simultaneously a social worker, activist, and poet working in Chinatown, NY. I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2009, in my early days of documenting the neighborhood when I was still shooting B&W film. This image also represents a turning point in my work. Always, when I see this image, I picture it in bold red and yellow hues, colors that flooded the room and her petite frame as the late afternoon light shone through the towering Chinese flag hung proudly across her bedroom window. I wished at that moment I had carried color film with me instead... the intense, symbolic red glow emanating from the flag, changed the mood and tone of the situation completely. The following day, I went out and bought as much color film as I could afford at the time. Till now, I've stuck to working with color when photographing in Chinatown.


Day 2

This is a portrait of Davina, an inspiring lady who is simultaneously a social worker, activist, and poet working in Chinatown, NY. I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2009, in my early days of documenting the neighborhood when I was still shooting B&W film.

This image also represents a turning point in my work. Always, when I see this image, I picture it in bold red and yellow hues, colors that flooded the room and her petite frame as the late afternoon light shone through the towering Chinese flag hung proudly across her bedroom window. I wished at that moment I had carried color film with me instead... the intense, symbolic red glow emanating from the flag, changed the mood and tone of the situation completely.

The following day, I went out and bought as much color film as I could afford at the time. Till now, I've stuck to working with color when photographing in Chinatown.

Day 3 Here, I revisit an image from a shoot of The Living Room Project, an interactive performance on the Lower East Side, where audiences are encouraged to pick up random props and participate as performers. The mystery and unpredictability of experimental theatre encourages "serious play". Before photography, I studied theatre, writing, and was an avid painter. While I have less time for writing and painting now (which I'm working on changing) I still believe in this idea of serious play, of being committed to playing, of turning it into a discipline.


Day 3

Here, I revisit an image from a shoot of The Living Room Project, an interactive performance on the Lower East Side, where audiences are encouraged to pick up random props and participate as performers.

The mystery and unpredictability of experimental theatre encourages "serious play". Before photography, I studied theatre, writing, and was an avid painter. While I have less time for writing and painting now (which I'm working on changing) I still believe in this idea of serious play, of being committed to playing, of turning it into a discipline.

Day 4 I've been meaning to revisit the images from the trip I made in 2011 to Shangri-La, an ancient Tibetan village in Yunnan province, China... especially after I heard the devastating news earlier this year that the entire historical site was wiped out by a massive fire and the village is now no more. Here's the story: http://www.pri.org/…/shangri-la-no-more-after-massive-fire-… I write this post with great fondness and sadness. I found myself in Yunnan for two weeks in 2011, a spur of the moment kind of decision during one of the most painful times of my life. During this journey, I met a dear new friend Laurens with whom I did some of the most unforgettable hiking I've ever done, including a trek up an isolated hill overlooking the village of Shangri-La. The woods on this hill was covered entirely with millions upon millions of Tibetan prayer flags, and it's difficult to find words then or even now to describe just how humbling, serene and moving this hike was. I remember whispering to Laurens I'd like to return to this hill someday... but I'd never expect to learn that it would be gone within 3 years. The images from this time is my elegy to the Tibetan hill and village.


Day 4

I've been meaning to revisit the images from the trip I made in 2011 to Shangri-La, an ancient Tibetan village in Yunnan province, China... especially after I heard the devastating news earlier this year that the entire historical site was wiped out by a massive fire and the village is now no more.

Here's the story: http://www.pri.org/…/shangri-la-no-more-after-massive-fire-…

I write this post with great fondness and sadness. I found myself in Yunnan for two weeks in 2011, a spur of the moment kind of decision during one of the most painful times of my life. During this journey, I met a dear new friend Laurens with whom I did some of the most unforgettable hiking I've ever done, including a trek up an isolated hill overlooking the village of Shangri-La.

The woods on this hill was covered entirely with millions upon millions of Tibetan prayer flags, and it's difficult to find words then or even now to describe just how humbling, serene and moving this hike was. I remember whispering to Laurens I'd like to return to this hill someday... but I'd never expect to learn that it would be gone within 3 years.

The images from this time is my elegy to the Tibetan hill and village.

Day 5 This image is from an ongoing series I started in 2011, which only few eyes have seen. This was made in response to learning about the death of my estranged father. That year I lost the desire to shoot in color, but still desperate for an outlet, I returned to working in B&W. I still find it really difficult to share this work, but I hope that one day I'll have the courage to share more, even if it isn't paired with the most eloquent words, or have a perfect container, or even a resolution... that's why I lose myself in images after all. They can speak for themselves.


Day 5

This image is from an ongoing series I started in 2011, which only few eyes have seen. This was made in response to learning about the death of my estranged father. That year I lost the desire to shoot in color, but still desperate for an outlet, I returned to working in B&W. I still find it really difficult to share this work, but I hope that one day I'll have the courage to share more, even if it isn't paired with the most eloquent words, or have a perfect container, or even a resolution... that's why I lose myself in images after all. They can speak for themselves.