Friday, December 31, 2010

People Change, Myself Included.

Went to a family gathering this evening. Didn't want to go but am extremely glad that I went.

I very briefly mentioned my uncle here.

When was the last time I met my cousin?  Must be some 20 years ago, probably during my uncle's funeral. As my uncle had determined not to work, my father took care of his two kids.  After graduating from college and becoming a physiotherapist, my elder cousin moved to Australia.  Since then I haven't talked to or met him.  I was always mad with him.  My father paid his college fee, brought him clothes and offered him things we didn't get, and he just vanished. Not a note of thanks, a phone call, or an email for nearly 20 years.

A few days ago my father received a phone call from my cousin.  He was coming to Hong Kong with his wife and kids.  My father was overwhelmed with joy.  He called me and my brothers and sister three times a day to ensure that we would attend the family dinner today.  It sounded like the greatest news to him in many year.  Not wanting to spoil my father's mood, I went to the dinner, reluctantly.

Surprise. Surprise. I enjoyed the gathering, very much, a lot.  I actually felt happy to meet my cousin, his wife and children. Wasn't I supposed to be filled with hatred, disrespect and a feeling of annoyance? Honestly I wasn't. Not a bit. My cousin is now living a good life and has a lovely wife and two wonderful children (one is, like his father, a physiotherapist and the other is a medical doctor to be).  Not in a million years can I imagine that it can be so satisfying and joyous to see someone who are somewhat blood-related to me becoming polite, well-mannered and wonderful young man and woman.  Filled with joy, I thanked my cousin for breaking the ice and coming here to visit us.  I meant it.  A big thank you indeed.

On my way home, I kept wondering how foolish I was to let myself be blinded by prejudice and close-mindedness.  If only I had taken the first step and contacted my cousin, I'd have had all the joy of seeing my niece and nephew grow.  I'm glad that it's not too late.

I have been telling my daughter that doing something that you don't want to do may bring you some totally unexpected joy.  I am right.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vivian Maier

Not sure whether this humble nanny would like to be known, but she is bound to be referred to as an unknown Henri cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, Eugene Atget or Garry Winogrand.

More examples of her work are available here and here.

Looking at these vintage photographs, I can't help but wonder how many other Vivian Maiers are left undiscovered.  Street photography must be Vivian Maier's second nature that she did not realise what an incredible eye she had.  Living in a man's world and probably a bit introverted, she might find it easier to stuff the negatives and prints under the bed than making an effort to show them to people.  Some critics say that her work does not stand out from other street photographs. "Not enough irony or wit, and, not keeping a distance from their subjects", they claim.  What?  Since when has getting close to the subjects become a vice, and adding irony or wit a virtue?  The greatness of Maier's work lies in her connection with the subjects, not any calculated irony or wit.  I am pretty certain that she never pre-contemplated a ironic or witty scene, and waited for the perfect magic moment to come; she just brought her Rollei to her eyes when she saw something interesting and pressed the shutter. That was it.

If the purpose of life is to create something that will last, she successfully achieved this very purpose.  Her work is going to last.

Good that there were films and nothing digital half a century ago.
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