I didn’t take may photos when I was in Shanghai but ‘Charging Ahead’ is one of the few shots I did take.

Shot from my hotel room into the street below, I’d wager the hotel is no longer there. Shanghai has changed so much in the last 20 years. I also think the tractor in this photo has long since been consigned to the scrap heap.

These tractors were everywhere back in the day. It’s as though the only engine you could buy in the late eighties and early nineties was the model in use on this tractor, and on this tractor in Beijing and on this boat near Suzhou. I’ve also seen this engine powering a cultivator in a field. One size fits all.

This one had just left what looked to me like a builders supply yard across the street. There are no supplies in the back so I’m thinking they’d either just dropped something off or were making a run to pick something up.

Either way, I think the motion in this image captures the energy that was the Chinese economy in the early nineties – charging ahead to become an industrial powerhouse and leaving the agricultural past in the shadows.

Incidentally, I processed this image in the new onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 8 (Beta 3 version). Perfect Photo Suite 8 will be released later today, November 26. You can order by clicking on the ad, below.

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I never did get my ‘Double-Fish Light’ from the Chang Hong Light Factory, nor the ‘Shang Ming Light’ from the Zhang Jiang Light Factory.

I took this photo on some street in Shanghai. I was struck by the bunting – the small colored flags – strung across the street. Those nearest me were advertising products from two light factories so maybe they were actually put up by a lighting vendor rather than the factories themselves.

But I’m left wondering, why advertise in English? I mean, for me it was great, but I question if any non-local ever had an interest in owning a ‘Double-Fish Light’ or a ‘Shang Ming Light’. I certainly didn’t.

My guess is both these lights were decorative. I’d hazard a guess that the ‘Double-Fish Light’ had two fishes intertwined in some fashion on the lamp base but a ‘Shang Ming Light’? What on earth is a ‘Shang Ming’? I’ve no idea and neither really piqued my interest at the time. I mean, I never felt like I just had to get me one of those.

I just Googled these phrases and came up empty. The demand in the West for these items must have waned long ago. Many years in the future some person is going to bring one in to a Chinese version of ‘The Antiques Road Show’ or ‘Cash in the Attic’ and it’ll be the find of the show. I did find one ‘Double Fish Light’ on alibaba.com, but came up empty on Shang Mings. Oh well.

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I titled this photo ‘Hawkeye’ for fairly obvious reasons, and also based on my assumption that this is some sort of bird of prey.

Again, this is a silk embroidery piece I photographed in Suzhou in 1991 so, again, probably in the Embroidery Research Institute. One key difference from the cat photo is that the artisan here is a man.

The process is the same for the cat photo – he’s copying a photo. What I particularly like in this image, and it’s also present in the cat photo, is the catchlight in the hawk’s eye. It’s a small touch but just adds a touch more realism. The sheen of the ‘feathers’ is helped by the silk threads of which quite a wide array of colors is being used by the artist.

I don’t recall how much they were selling these for back in 1991 but I do know that by my western European standards of the day, it was not much.

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Today’s image is just another cat photo – or maybe it isn’t. I find the skill of these artisans to be quite amazing.

I took this photo on a visit to Suzhou in China in 1991. I was almost certainly in the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute but I’ve no remaining notes to confirm that.

You can see from this image that the artisan copies a photo or other image and scales it up. I didn’t see any grids to aid in the scaling up, the artists all seemed to just judge the scale by eye.

Using fine silk threads, the young lady painstakingly recreated the cats’ fur. I’ve no idea how many hours she would spend on this piece – I just know I don’t have the patience.

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I was toying with titling today’s photo ‘Yokel’ but decided on ‘Loaded’ instead. Both are applicable in this case.

So here I’ve followed the man with the bike up to the top of the bridge and I’m looking down the other side.

There, coming towards me, is this man with two fully loaded baskets, one each end of a yoke balanced across his shoulders. The baskets themselves have seen better days and are themselves full of somebody else’s cast offs.

I guess today we’d call him a ‘recycler’. I like the way he’s steadying his load, his right and forward on the yoke and his left on one of the ropes of the basket behind him t prevent it swinging.

I’ve no idea how far he’d come or how much further he still had to go, but I suspect his crossing of this bridge was a regular event. Maybe he could have traded up to a tricycle, but then he’d have had to have taken a less direct route as the ramps on this bridge are not right for a tricycle to use them.

Incidentally, this is the first image I’ve processed in the new onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 8 (Beta 3 version). I’ve not explored this new version yet in any depth but from the little I’ve used I wholly recommend you upgrade or purchase if you don’t already have it. For time constraints I still used a layered approach in Photoshop but I’m pretty sure I could have got the same end result just with Perfect Photo Suite 8 if I’d played just a little longer.

Perfect Photo Suite 8 will be released on November 26. You can pre-order by clicking on the ad, below.

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