Published on: 21st Dec 2013In 2013, the 15th China International Photographic Art Exhibition took place in Lishui City in China's Zhejiang Province and I was invited to be a judge at the judging conference. The judging conference took place at the end of August. This was my first visit to China and I was totally overwhelmed by the hospitality and friendliness of this land and its people. During this visit I definitely made lifelong friends.
Shortly after my return to South Africa (in fact the letter was in my inbox when I opened it the first time after my return!) I received an invitation via Miss Guo Jing to exhibit a panel of my landscape photographs at the Yixian Photography Festival in November 2013.What an honour and opportunity!
The festival is close to Huangshan city and Huangshan Mountain, and I did not let this opportunity go by without a hiking trip to the mountain - but that is a different story...
The festival is distributed over a group of small "ancient" villages in the Yixian County, of which the former residence of Sai Jinhua, a controversial Chinese courtesan who played an important role in China's foreign relations history of the 19th century, is one of the most beautiful settings.
The main exhibition area was in a village called Xiuli (pronounced "Shoe Lee"). When you walk into this village, it is as if you have just discovered time travel and you have been transported back 200 years!The other surprise was the fact that most photographs are displayed outside - in the streets, on the walls and under the trees! My own exhibition was on the street in front of the main auditorium. We have a saying 'Go Big or Go Home' - I think the Chinese invented this saying! Everything is just bigger, more colourful and grander than anything I have ever seen before. Never in my life did I expect to see posters with life size photos of myself - as if I am a celebrity...
The opening ceremony wss a very colourful event. It was also conducted outside, in an open area courtyard. It started with a music parade followed by some speeches (unfortunately these speeches were not interactively translated, but one do catch the drift of what is going on) and then a prize giving ceremony for the winners of the 2013 Xidi/Hongcun Photography Cup.
We all also received invitations to give a lecture at the festival. I chose Creative Landscape Photography as my topic. Because of the language barrier, I found it very different to my normal lecture technique (of walking around and using my hands) as this lecture was given with the help of a translator - it is very structured and formal - you must stick to the script...
The programme indicated 2 hours for the lecture, and I found that with the translationthis was just enough time. At one point in my lecture (where I wanted to illustrate how to use the Cha-cha technique to take a stereo photograph), I did get too excited and did not follow the script anymore. Ziwan, our translator, just shook her head and hoped that my sign language was enough for everybody to follow!
We started off as foreigners and strangers, but over the period of 11 days, we grew into being very close friends!
From left to right:Simon Leach from UK, Badar Ahmed Al Nomani from UAE, Michael Pritchard from UK, Yuriy Titovets from the Ukraine, me (Note to self: Remember a jacket next time),Miss Guo Jing from China and Derek Birch from UK.
(If you have read up to here and did not click on a photo yet, do so to see them in larger format and also to browse through the rest of this gallery)