This image is very deceiving because in reality, the Forbidden City was very chaotic. I love this moment of peace though because through my lens, it was uninterrupted by visitors. The surprising thing about my visit to the Forbidden City was that the grand majority of the visitors were actually Chinese. People fly from all over the country to visit so this served as an ideal place to people watch. Some people came in what I imagine to be traditional attire and some were very formally dressed. There were several instances where people would stop me and ask to take a picture with me. I guess a photo with a foreigner serves as a cheap souvenir!
I never thought a picture of a cat could be as dramatic as this. I also never thought I'd find myself going out of my way to take a picture of a cat in China. But there was something about this alley in the hutong neighborhood that needed attention. A combination of the side lighting, the pile of trash, and this very cooperative and filthy cat screamed out that this picture needed to be made. Walking through the hutong neighborhood really shifted my idea of Beijing. Before today, all I had seen of this enormous city were skyscrapers and high fashion stores among different temples and parks. This neighborhood is easily tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of modern bars, clubs, and restaurants but once you walk around in it, there's no ignoring it. The living arrangements and overall atmosphere are so new and different for me that I almost felt intrusive walking around. All of the people I came across were more than friendly and welcoming though, so that wasn't a problem. Greg, the NG photographer leading the expedition, explained that this is a very special time for Beijing because it is world's different from what it was 20 years ago and will be different from the Beijing it will be 10 years from now. It's really a privilege to be able to document current life in the "real" Beijing. Real doesn't necessarily mean poverty, it means a way of life that is not bothered by tourism and big brand names. These neighborhoods might not live up to our standard of living but we will never live up to their sense of community.
We ended the day on a very exciting (and high-pitched) note. Not only did I photograph some amazing Chinese Opera performances, I got to shoot them backstage while they were applying their own makeup! This was such a neat opportunity because it really tied the whole show together. Chinese Opera is unlike any Opera I've ever heard of. Makeup, costumes, dancing, and acrobatics play a huge role in telling several stories. While the singing was something to get used to, the performances themselves were beautiful. We were fortunate enough to get front row seats and served small Chinese snacks throughout the show.