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Sichuan – Chinese Chess

I recently updated my website by adding in a new Sichuan image gallery. I thought that I would start doing something different in these website update posts. Instead of reproducing a selection of images from the actual gallery, I want to focus on just 1 or 2 and expand on them by showing some photographs related to them but not shown on my website.

The series ‘Chinese Chess’, featured in this post was taken during my second visit to China in 2004. I was in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province with a few friends. My friends had gone into a shop to do some shopping and while waiting for them (waiting again . . .), I wandered along the road outside the shop. I found a group of men playing chinese chess along the sidewalk and went over to have a look. After a while, I took a photograph of them playing. They did not mind so I continued taking photos once in a while while watching them play. I never sneaked shots or shot them from far away using a telephoto lens. I was using a Leica M6TTL with a 35mm lens as well as a Widelux (a wide angle panoramic swing lens camera). The wide angle lenses on both cameras meant that I had to be quite close to the men in order to take the photos I wanted.

In most instances, if I have time to shoot, the photographs that I take tend to be series of images rather than just single standalone images. Wide shots show the context of where the photographs were taken and tighter shots focus mainly on details and expressions. Based on what is happening in front of me, I will decide how and when to take the image. I tend not to have a “random just shoot and hope it comes out well” mentality. If it is people that I am photographing, often I will decide on the composition I want first (by pre-visualizing in my mind what I think would make a good picture), compose and then wait for the best moment to press the shutter button. The best moments for me are usually the times when the expressions or the gestures of the people are the most interesting.

The following is a selection of photographs from the series featuring the sidewalk Chinese chess players.

The gestures and expressions of all 3 men make the above photo work well for me.  The man on the left makes his move, the man in the centre has his right hand under his chin in a typical ‘thinking’ position, the man on the right reacts to his opponents move with a smile .


This Widelux shot shows much of the context.  The little girl on the left was sitting outside the shop her mother worked in.  To me she was part of the big picture and my experience of being there; so I purposely included her in.


The game from a different angle.  Showing the road with the moving car in the background also allows the viewer to get a good idea of where the men were situated.


I printed and mailed the girl’s mother the few photos that she appeared in.


Another Widelux shot.  The girl was reaching towards me as she wanted to take photos too.  I composed, focused and let her press the shutter button a few times.  This was long before I ever got a digital camera so there was no instant feedback for her to see.


Again expressions and the position of the hands of the men make this photo work well for me.


This is one of those photos that people look at for a while before noticing my main subject.  I noticed one of the men had a little Chihuahua tucked under his arm and made sure to get it included in one of the photographs I took.

I might do another expansion post for the Sichuan image gallery.  Do visit the gallery to see all the other images in the meantime.  I have a couple of book reviews coming soon and the Tibet image gallery is expected to be up soon too!  So stay tuned to these updates.