Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Out of the Ordinary


Ever since the Dutch journey last October, I have not taken a single picture with my Canon 5D.

I float within DC with my eyes half closed. --- I remember those days when I go abroad, especially to places which are very different to my own, my sensibilities are awakened; everything is fresh and exciting. Yet I was like a dormant elephant throughout this very long and cold winter. The travel to Quebec City was expected to be an awakening journey. Inspired by encouragement from some friends, I once again carried my Canon 5D on the road, expecting to find subjects matter to photograph.

I am sure you know what I mean: a beautiful old building, a glorious sunset, and so on. We often set up expectations on what interesting views or photographs should show: the unusual, the unfamiliar as well as the pretty, cute or beautiful.

I arrived in Quebec City on Sunday afternoon, directly from another conference, exhausted and seeking a bit of joie de vivre. Quebec is famous for Chateau Frontenac and Parisian ambient. Subconsciously, I have undefined expectation, especially so given I designedly brought my camera. After checking-in, I wandered in the old town, a sense of disappointment abuilding. Out of patience, I stopped a man carrying a camera(plus lens) twice bigger than mine, and asked him with an innocent tone, "what's so unique of this city? Anything worth shooting? What did you catch?" Unprepared for such questions, the man endeavored to find some words and expressed out with not fluent English. I was not satisfied, yet I had no intention to continue the dialogue, partly due to the language hurdle, more likely because I suddenly realized my impoliteness, especially after I got to know that he is a local resident, which makes me uneasy and even vexed.

"How arrogant you are, Jennie!" I said to myself after leaving that photographer.


This interlude and the following re-encounter with Jean-Francois Bergeron, the man I stopped with strange questions, unexpectedly roused my awareness, making the Quebec city journey a psychological exploration.

It's true that I was at the edge of sickness the day arriving in Quebec. Indeed, I collapsed on the last conference day. Soul never separate from body, they are united by joy as well as by malaise. The pain on body made me short-tempered. However, what really made the impolite questions I think is a lack of appreciation! Most of us cannot really appreciate what we are seeing. We take too much for granted, because it is all so familiar.

I have seen far more beautiful places like Lefkara (Cyprus), Najac (France), and many others. The advertised charm of Quebec city is less exciting in the comparison. And as I said earlier, I took my camera in hope to capture something new, something unique, or something sensually touching. In other words, I was seeking externally to expand the scope of my aesthetic experience.

Expectation is often best accompanied with disappointment. I am sure you have quite a few such stories. So what could be an alternative for external expectation?

The answer is internal awareness. It's not what additional you see, but what more you can perceive.

I would urge everyone to start looking at the world in a different way. Spend some time looking at everyday objects, at their design, their shape, their individual characteristics. Think ahead and imagine their significance. Many are interesting and aesthetically pleasing in their own right, if you just give them some attention. And of course, the discipline of taking out a camera and documenting the things around you is a great way to start to open your eyes wider.

In fact, everyday objects are unusual, but we are not able to see this clearly.

I would appreciate the encounter and inspiration of Jean-Francois Bergeron. Thanks to him, the Quebec journey indeed turns to an awakening one. It modifies my attitude toward the world and incoming journeys, with more appreciation and awareness. With his generosity, I am showing below the pictures of the city from the perspective of a Quebecker photographer.Thank you, Jeff!

(Le Lapin Saute restaurant, Photo by Jeff Bergeron)

(Chateau Frontenac in the winter, Photo by Jeff Bergeron)

(Saint Lawrence River, Photo by Jeff Bergeron)

Photographed by Jennie Bai.
Copyright ©Jennie Bai. All Rights Reserved.

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