Part 7: Changzhou in Colour
“The best camera is the one you have with you,” says freelance photographer Chase Jarvis. There were only a handful of times that I brought my DSLR out on the street in Changzhou, but I took my iPhone everywhere. Whenever I encountered something frustrating, interesting, or unusual (for me), I took a picture.
Yangtze River Field Trip
Back when I co-taught the one student in middle school, our school took a bus trip to the Yangtze River and then hopped on a small boat. The Yangtze is a major river that loosely divides China into the north and south. On the bus ride over, I began to smell the contents in the photographs. I got acquainted with the source that drained into my backyard canal.
Being part of the small percentage of people fluent in English, I got accustomed to reading Chinglish, but some things still stood out to me.
Around November/December 2014, the local Changzhou government began this campaign about creating a civilized Changzhou. They put up signs on at least two major streets in Xinbei area calling for good social etiquette on public transit and daily life in general. I even got a notice taped on my door that said that Changzhou has been China’s civilized city since 2011, and they should continue this by not littering in public, not spitting, not park in places not designated for parking, among other things. The Chinese seemed dismissive towards the messages (as would I be in their shoes), but the medium, message, and public reaction in combination intrigued me. I would compare it to a non-Canadian or American being slightly amused by the Canadian food guide.
Interesting/Every Day Scenes
I took these pictures out of frustration of having to go into traffic to walk around these vehicles because they couldn’t take the care to park properly. I can understand people not caring about inconveniencing others. People can do selfish things. But I don’t understand why one would rather risk damaging their car over parallel parking, no matter how tedious they found it. The curbs are not low. It doesn’t even look comfortable. And the flower truck that blocked the intersection entrance? You have to jump the fence to cross the street. Out of all places to stop you had to choose that??
As with the parking, I was frustrated with the pollution. The views are from my apartment on various days.
One day, the pollution went up to an AQI of over 600. Never seen what that looks like? This picture was taken from my former classroom, and from this view you should be able to see a building that’s 141 m away (measurement taken from Baidu maps). You can barely make it out in the first picture. In the second picture, it’s gone. I included the brick building support in the foreground to give you some comparison.
This is the end of the story about my 2 year stay in Changzhou. Pictures don’t tell the whole story. I can make Changzhou look like a place of Chinese fairy tales, or I can wait a few days make it look like an apocalyptic wasteland. I have certainly wished I shot more, but I am also reminded why I didn’t. This is not the whole story, but you now have a glimpse that at this time and in this place, things looked like this.