When I was younger I remember wondering what the Great Wall of China looked like in person. I had only seen pictures of course, but I tried to imagine the scale of it and what it would feel like to be there and yet at the same time, even then, I never really believed I would go. I’m a traveler at heart, but life realities and adulthood responsibilities take hold eventually, one might be inclined to make a bucket list of places they hope to go someday and China wasn’t at the forefront of mine. I still haven’t made it to the Great Wall, but somehow I found myself IN China this year with my daughter in tow, thanks to a gigantic life/work change of one beloved best friend and her family.
We traveled to a “small” island city called Xiamen for Spring Break; home to 5.5 million people, which is approximately 1 million people more than my entire state of Oregon. Overwhelming wonderment is a good way to describe my reaction to the culture change and population density. Color, textures, food, buildings, people…oh so many people… all in quantities I never could have imagined. But the rhythm in which all these things and people exist in together; the hum of life in Xiamen is like some sort of marvelous choreography. The best way to describe it is constant merging. I don’t know how they do it, but I suppose when so many people live in one set amount of space, the people adapt; they figure out the correct cadence of life necessary to make it work.
Its rained buckets the entire trip. I intended to photograph a lot more than I did, but because of the rain and dark gloomy skies I was significantly more selective. Film and water do not mix, but there were two things in particular that had me doing whatever I could to photograph as much as I could while we were there experiencing them. The first was a ferry trip to a tiny island called Gulangyu, less than 1 square mile of space and home to 20,000-ish full time residents. I was mesmerized and could have stayed days exploring it all. Someday I’d love to go back.
This is Gulangyu from the highest point with Xiamen across the water (on the right). A fun fact from Gulangyu is that there are no combustion engines allowed on the island. We did see a few golf carts transporting guests to a few hotels along the waterfront, but people mainly walk the maze of streets and stairs that span the island.
The second awesome outing was to visit a Buddhist temple called Nanputuo. All the colors and carved wood collectively made this temple one of the finest manmade creations I’ve ever beheld. I mean truly, it is astounding what can be created by human minds and hands. In the case of Nanputuo, it’s taken centuries to get it to the point it is today but the sacredness to its people and care to which it is taken care of is remarkable.
All images taken with either a Pentax 645nii camera with Kodak Ektar 100 film or Canon Elan 7 with 35mm lens and Agfa Vista 200 film. Developed and scanned by The FIND Lab.
Marla Cyree of Simply Splendid specializes in film photography based in Portland, Oregon as a wedding and portrait photographer.