For me, it was like looking through the portal to a hidden world. Much like my photo of the woman washing her hair, I felt a little as though I was intruding, but in this shot the cyclist can obviously see me.

I didn’t get to explore these alleys (in Suzhou, China) and I figure I might well have got lost had I stepped through the portal myself. I’m thinking of a more recent adventure from 2008 when I had 30 minutes to explore the old town of Bari in Italy before a meeting and found myself in a labyrinth of passageways.

I’m guessing from the man’s attire that he’s probably an office worker and not a laborer. Perhaps he’s commuting or running an errand.

Looking at the photo now, I realize I never knew how much a bicycle cost and what that was as a multiple of the typical wage. Back in 1991 when this photo was taken, cars were still few and far between and the bicycle was by far the most common form of private transport – and likely still is, even with the dramatic rise in car ownership in the intervening years.

Since I’ve not been able to post for a few days there are two today, first a black & white and then a color version.

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  • […] Particularly with the smaller canals, many of the bridges were foot bridges – a series of steps up to the apex and then back down again. Which is fine if you’re just walking but what if you’re cycling, like the guy in yesterday’s photo? […]ReplyCancel

‘I want to go left!’, is what I imagine the lady in today’s photo is trying to communicate. Meanwhile, her husband lounges at the helm of the boat looking on, thankful he’s not facing his wife.

Of course, that’s a story I just made up. I’ve no idea what was really going on. I can’t even figure out if the tugboat has just arrived to perform the tow or if its just completed and they are recovering the rope. Still, it’s clearly the woman who’s in charge here.

This image gives a different view of the engines on these twin engined boats. Clearly it was a successful design as it was nearly ubiquitous in this class of vessel.

The cargo on this boat is covered with a tarp – so probably not coal or concrete blocks.

I find it somewhat amusing that even the tugboat is using old tires as fenders.

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‘Wash rinse repeat’ is the age old maxim of shampoo sellers trying to get you to use more shampoo than you need.

I don’t recall where I was in proximity to the lady in today’s photo. I know I was using a telephoto lens but don’t recall the building I was in or why I was there when I captured this photo. I do know it was taken in Suzhou in 1991.

I often wish we’d had a chance to see how people actually lived in the older housing. All we got to see was newer housing with most of the mod cons (window air conditioners, running water and electricity).

I suspected in yesterday’s post that some of the older houses would have been quite dark inside. My guess is that is one reason the lady is washing her hair in the alleyway.

There are so many things to look at here. The wooden doors behind her, for example, and the well worn stone thresholds. The extension to the roof to provide additional shelter from the rain. The wooden desk, set out in the alley with the scattered utensils including chop sticks, a spoon and an enameled mug. Then there’s the hat hung on the wall, the cleaning items and, of course, the green plastic bowl.

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It looks to me as though this lady is doing her washing up in the river flowing past her door – Suzhou, China, 1991. Behind the tree with the flame-orange leaves, a neighbor looks on.

Back in the mid-1980′s I worked in South Africa and got to visit the ‘Big Hole’ – the old diamond mine in Kimberley. When diamonds were discovered, different miners staked their claims and each dug their own claim at their own rate. The result was this weird landscape of column like structures until eventually they amalgamated their operations into one big company.

When you look at the houses by the river in this photo and in yesterday’s you see the same effect in play. Each landowner has built to their own needs and resources on their parcel of land resulting in a wide variety of structures and shapes.

I’m left wondering what used to stand in the space behind the lady washing the red bowl. I suspect at one time or another this was also a house – the end of the wall near the center of the image looks as though it could be a door frame.

I’m also left thinking that the interiors of these house would be pretty dark, particularly on the lower floors, given the relatively small windows.

As with the houses in yesterday’s photo, I’m guessing that flood insurance here is impossible to come by.

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‘A river runs through it’ is what you can imagine happening to these houses if the river rises another six inches or so.

I captured this image back in 1991 in Suzhou, China but I don’t recall if I was on a boat or on the other bank of the river. You can imagine the wake of a boat sloshing the water over the banks so I don’t know if boat traffic was regulated here or not.

On the left hand side of the frame, a woman appears to be washing something in the river. Was this river the ‘running water’ for these houses then? I hope not but I suspect the river water (and everything else dissolved or suspended int it) was (and maybe still is) used extensively in these houses.

I love this collection of roofs. While the tiles are all the same, there’s such a variety in the pitches, pitch lengths and apex directions. Clearly this little section of the community grew organically and not from some master plan. I’m also intrigued by the two windows with bars on them. If the bars are needed, why are they not on the adjacent windows also?

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