Some people have been puzzled
by the ordinariness of things I have chosen to photograph on these
pages. It may be as well to make my purpose clear.
The three main uses of photographs
have traditionally been a) an album of family, friends or acquaintances;
b) a checklist of places visited (usually favouring 'scenic' spots,
as per designated by tourist bureaux; c) a medium of artistic expression.
Note that the photographs on
this website are directed at none of those criteria. Rather, I have
always had in my mind's eye this question : "If I were living
in a country, say Australia or USA, knew nothing about other places,
but was suddenly offered a chance to work in, say, some part
of Asia, what kind of images would I like to see by way of a crash
It seems to me that the answer is that I would want to see the
good, the bad and the ugly -- the ordinary face of everyday life
in the place that I might be going to. I would be only marginally
interested in the kind of touched up postcards of temples and lovely
panoramas that are the staple of tourist offices the world over.
In fact, when I am thinking of visiting a country myself, it is
exactly the ordinary vistas, the stuff of daily life which locals
never notice because it is the soup they live in, that I can never
find in books or on the Internet.
Some sets of photographs here, especially the Korean ones, include
rural scenes. These are generally easy on the eye, even picturesque.
However, the bulk of the stuff is urban. Cities the world over,
and Asian cities in particular, are mostly ugly places. The public
spaces in most Asian cities are downright awful, although there
are signs of improvement here and there. (Australian cities have
improved hugely with urban planning in my own lifetime).
This ugliness is partly the
result of explosive growth, partly lack of resources, and partly
the traditional focus of many Asian cultures which give little respect
to public spaces and unknown people. Add to this an uncontrolled
contagion of vehicles and roads, and you quickly have an environment
of violent, smoke-filled concrete canyons, quite hostile to humans.
I think (I hope!) that these nightmares
of urban wasteland are a passing phase which people will eventually
revolt against and reclaim. In the meantime though, I record what
I see. My only regret is that as an outsider, I rarely have access
to the private sanctuaries where the peoples of my host cultures
express the best face of their cultures.
Finally, the captions I
have added to various images may put a few people off. The captions
are sometimes quizzical, or wry, or even critical. They are, of course,
a purely personal reaction and may be ignored. My sense of humour
tends to be piqued easily by paradox. These photo captions have occasionally
been interpreted as a sneer. That is never my intention. I'm as imperfect
as anybody else, and smile at my own stupidities as well as the crazy
world. Cultures are often promoted like competing football teams,
which you are either for or against. It is a poor metaphor. Any "culture" is
a description of an average design for living by a certain group
of people. Such living designs ALL have good points and disasters.
(Also, the most interesting members of any culture are invariable
at the margin, not average, not quite accepted, but the real agents
So the pictures you see here,
and the comments you read, are merely one outsider's vision of what
you might expect to see and feel when you are suddenly parachuted
onto the steets of a Busan or Wuhan, or wherever.