November 10, 2009

Chinatown at night

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photo by Donald Kinney

Trying to shoot photos in Chinatown is a perilous sort of business.   I get the most curious of stares and I have to be careful because everybody is so polite about not blocking my view that I can actually freeze sidewalk traffic when they see the silly white guy up ahead with his long lens and professional looking camera.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

If a shop owner catches me shooting into his business I always get the standard wave and a loud "no pictures.   Some wave-offs are rather gentle and others cause me to make a hasty retreat to safety.   One day at a busy fish market on Stockton Street I got yelled at by the shortest full-grown Chinaman I've probably ever seen -- but in the loudest voice that I've probably ever heard.

Another day the butcher at the meat market near the intersection of Stockton and Broadway started waving furiously at me -- I offered my standard apology, but he kept waving -- and I kept apologizing -- only to finally realize that he wanted me to actually come inside his meat market if I wanted to take some photos.   Of course he didn't know a word of English, and I know even less Mandarin, but his smile transcended our cultural differences.   Unfortunately none of the photos I took of him or of his shop turned out very well, but it was the first time I've been actually welcomed into a shop in Chinatown.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Lets see, what will it be tonight -- spare ribs or a nice duck?   But I will spare you the photo I took of a cage-full of live baby ducks down at Ming Kee Game Birds on Grant.   It was SO sad knowing what was going to soon happen to those little guys...

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

This man seemed to be looking for something -- maybe he keeps the "good stuff" inside the cash register -- I just don't know

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

I always admire the industriousness and diligence of our Chinese community.   This shopkeeper was studying something -- maybe English -- and sounding out the words as she went.

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photowannabe said...

I am always fascinated by the amount of merchandise crammed into such small spaces. Its a photographers paradise. Stay safe as you lurk around those interesting colorful places.

Anonymous said...

I generally enjoy the photos and commentary on this blog, but I had to comment on the use of the word Chinaman. It's derogatory and should not be used to describe people from China or those who happen to look Asian.

AphotoAday said...

Thank you for pointing that out, and I realize that I should have known better... I was not meaning to use the term in a derogatory manner -- but I am an OLD person and have just not advanced beyond the ignorance of the past...

Just to go overboard here a bit I think I will start calling Chinatown, "Asiantown"... Maybe I could start a trend...

Actually I've been warned against this sort of thing before -- one day I was using the term "Oriental" when I should have been using the more P.C. term of "Asian"... Someone asked me how old I was, as the word Oriental is now a term from the distant past, so to speak...

Hell, I would never call a black person a "negro" these days... I've pretty much got that one down -- but you've got to give me a break here -- for years and years (((until I told her to please stop it))) my mother used to use the term "darkies" when referring to blacks.

And then there was the day when I was talking to my good buddy Curtis and I somehow referred to him as a "Chicano" -- to which he quickly replied (((even though he was born in this country))) "Hey Don, I'm not a Chicano -- I'm a f*****g Mexican"... We both laughed and snorted another line...

Anyway, I plead ignorance, but I will strive to be respectful of all races in the future... After all, I don't want to start getting the reputation of being a "caveman"...

Respectfully, Donald Kinney

AphotoAday said...

Yep, it's a masterpiece how the shopkeepers can cram all that mysterious stuff into those small stores... But you know, I used to work for an art supply and craft shop, and we had to do exactly the same thing... I was in charge of setting up displays and constantly adjusting the shelving "gondolas" -- my manager had just three words for me when I started to balk -- "make it fit"... Thanks (but no thanks) for the memories...

Louise said...

I love that a "Chinaman" invited you in.

I believe in respectfulness--definitely believe in it--but I think P.C.-ness has gone overboard. I'm pretty sure the ethnic groups we are so worried about didn't make up all the new names we have for them.

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