Tag Archives: hutong

A converging media gray area



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Like so many shooters around the world, I’m a convert.

I come from a still photography background but as my career and technology have advanced I’ve been transported (gladly) into the video journalism world. While initially this was creating two minute feature videos all shot on a stationary tripod that accompanied a print story and photo, today my technological and journalistic world have been spun right-side-up and I’m making independent short films where I feel like I’ve reached a gray area of video journalism that merges into documentary film.

You might ask yourself: What’s the difference between video journalism and documentary film making? A couple years ago you might have talked about production value and venue of dissemination. However today, given the production value you can bring to news video along with the fact that your target audience might likely be web based, the two forms of visual communication have certainly crossed paths.

In the past I always identified myself as a journalist, photojournalist or visual journalist. Recently, I finished a project with journalist Kit Gillet that received some media attention. In newspapers and press releases I was reading things like “… documentary makers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet found …” I was like “Wow, now I’m a documentary maker. That’s a bit different.”

We made an interactive package for the Asia Society that included a three-part video series, two still slideshows and a digital tour of our subject. Given that you watch the three films sequentially it does follow more of what we might recognize as documentary film style. While I won’t decide if its a documentary, news clip or something completely different, this gray area is certainly a sign of converging media and the converged journalist. So — now the question is: Why does all this matter? Who cares if you are a documentary film maker, video journalist or a photographer?

In my mind, the answer has three parts.

  1. AUDIENCE PERCEPTION OF MEDIA: I think people will perceive things differently if they hit play thinking they are watching a short documentary film vs. a news clip. Perhaps people watch news clip thinking the content is unbiased, or perhaps they watch a documentary knowing that the film makers invested so much time on the subject, they have gained intricate knowledge that a typical journalist on a deadline probably couldn’t get. Regardless of how they receive the information, there is a culture shift in perception, be it a subconscious one.
  2. PHOTOGRAPHER’S IDENTITY: This culture shift also effects how we shoot. Does how you identify yourself impact your photography? I believe if you set into a project as a documentarian you might get a different result than if you were a journalist. In the documentary world, its total fine to take an angle (ala Michael Moore) and go with it. You might have a point and then go and (attempt to) prove it where a journalist would go and record what has happened and then let the audience decide what to take away from it. By calling yourself a documentary maker are you taking more control of the audience?
  3. SUBJECT, PHOTOGRAPHER COMMUNICATION: You will get different types of interviews and quotes if you approach your subject and tell them you are a journalist rather than a documentary maker. During this project, almost all of our sources were found by walking around talking to strangers over and over. Since we were making the films for the Asia Society, a nonprofit organization — we always made it clear we were working for an educational institute and not a newspaper. However, sometimes we introduced ourselves as journalists (mostly out of habit) and subjects would almost always become more shut off and more apprehensive about their words or talking to us at all. When we introduced ourselves as film makers, they were much more open to talking to us candidly.

If our work ends up in this gray area it also transplants us as photographers into a gray area with clear costs and benefits. As DSLR shooters we can end up here pretty easily and a lot of it has to do with the technology we use. These films were shot with (what I would call) a very, very basic kit:

With this small kit and a laptop you can produce a feature film or a 2-minute news clip using the same technology. And in this case our product was a (combined) 18-minute feature, or 3-part Web video series. This project started ages ago, with a single photograph I took of a friend’s former neighborhood after it had been half-demolished. From a photograph, to a photo series, to some video clips, to a video, to a video series, to an interactive package — the content developed over the course of a year. It was just a project in my back pocket for a long time. When the Asia Society jumped on board I grabbed friend and journalist Kit Gillet and we began forming content into what you are seeing here.

It’s obviously ok to be both a journalist and a documentary film maker. Or for that matter a photographer, videographer and a sword-swallowing-carnie: but given technologie’s impact on what we do, I think it’s worth a thought early in the process — it might change what you create.

— To see the greater project “The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs” click here.

Backstory — The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs



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After some long delays, I now present to you — The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs. About the movies:

In the face of China’s rapid modernization, the world’s most populous country is struggling to preserve its cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more visible than in the ancient alleyways and courtyards of Beijing.

Once a ubiquitous feature of Beijing, the hutongs are more than simply housing; they are actually a way of life. Entire families live in single, crowded courtyards, often with no bathrooms. Yet despite the lack of modern amenities, the communal aspect to life within the hutongs means that few want to leave – even as their neighbourhoods are being demolished and redeveloped. UNESCO estimates that more than 88 percent of the city’s old residential quarters are already gone, most torn down in the last three decades.

In a three-part series, filmmakers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet explore the vanishing world of Beijing’s hutongs, the realities of life within the narrow streets, and the future for these culturally-irreplaceable areas of China’s capital.

Now, for those interested — some backstory:

This project started ages ago (first mentioned on this blog, May 2, 2010), with a single photograph I took of a friend’s former neighborhood after it had been half-demolished. From a photograph, to a photo series, to some video clips, to a video, to a video series, to an interactive package the content developed over the course of a year and grew like a snowball falling down a hill. While Coverage of the hutong issue had been widespread in the East and the West, I was often offended at the quality of some of the journalism I was seeing. Especially since these stories were about the area where I have been living in for almost two years. I saw things in Western newspapers that said things like “The Chinese government wants to Disney-fy Gulou.” I was like … well, that type of editorializing doesn’t help tell people what’s going on. However, particularly the multimedia I had seen produced in a bilingual format seemed to be leaving out the most important part of the story – the residents.

I wanted to give them a voice — but I also wanted to give the voice of their reality. The area of concern here has tremendous cultural value; however, the living conditions of the area are not that of a modern society. The real question is: how can you modernize at such a rapid pace and preserve your culture. In answering that question there are a couple agendas that you can see:

  • You have the developers and the officials who seem to be holding hands down the aisle — they have a clear agenda to create revenue – quickly. However, the government does invest millions of RMB ever year into the old city. But how that money is spent is an elusive and questionable topic.
  • Then you have the residents. Most of their agendas are to have better living conditions. They want hot water, kitchens and indoor toilets. They want access to emergency vehicles. They want homes which contain heat so they don’t have to rely on coal throughout Beijing’s harsh winters. However, they do hold dear the communal atmosphere of the hutongs.
  • Then you have conservationists, whose agenda is to keep old Beijing — real. However, they do understand the reality of the residents. Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Agency’s (CHP) approach to educate the population on the value of the culturally significant area has been very effective. They have gained media attention on the subject which puts more pressure on the government, developers and officials to think twice before gentrifying Gulou.

So I began shooting and filming attempting to give all parties involved a voice, while keeping my opinion out. We talked to current residents, past hutong residents, city planners, professors, activists, NGOs – even lawayers who deal with displacement cases.

As a foreigner living in China, it can be hard to really understand how complex issues can be, especially with such an enormous population. And I think over population is the real key to this problem. There isn’t enough space. For example, if you want to have an indoor toilet in your house, someone will have to move out. And for most of the residents living there, moving isn’t financially feasible.

The hutong issue goes far beyond Beijing. How Beijing deals with the problem will be a model for other cities in China. This problem exists throughout the country and the developing world. When you think about how to deal with the problem, a couple options jump out right away:

Should the government Renovate, Redevelop or gentrify? We found almost all Beijingers were against gentrification. Person after person told us how much they disliked fake hutongs and particularly the Qianmen area. Residents were also against redevelopment, but at the same time don’t have money to renovate. Many felt economically trapped in the hutongs. They want better living conditions but feel powerless unless the government relocates and compensates them.

Compensation was another big issue. With rising real estate prices, the compensation isn’t enough and residents are often forced to move to areas far outside the city center. Ten years ago, the money was enough, but now residents feel cheated.

This project was a large collaboration and the community really got behind it. Journalist Kit Gillet and myself spent hundreds of hours trying to piece this together along with the Asia Society who financed and coproduced the project with us. However, without the help of others it wouldn’t have been possible — including music by the unfathomably talented composer and guzheng player Wu Fei, historic imagery from Beijing Postcards, audio post production work by Jules Ambroisine and countless hours of translation work by Ami Li and Xiaoming Wei. Beyond this tremendous support from the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) and Beijingers of all kinds, sizes and sorts made this possible.

The greater project includes three videos, a digital hutong tour, two slideshows and an interactive package that can be viewed here.

CANCELED or CENSORED? The Fate of Old Beijing: A Vanishing World Documentary Screening & Dialog

Hutong Screening Delayed



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Sadly today’s event “The Fate of Old Beijing: A Vanishing World Documentary Screening & Dialog” has been canceled or perhaps censored. This event has come during a politically sensitive time and although I don’t have all the details, local press has been proving us with some information from some unknown sources.

Today was suppoesed to be a screening of the hutong project I’ve been working on:

On Saturday, March 19 I am excited to present a long term project I’ve been working on with journalist Kit Gilllet. This project, co-produced with the Asia Society will be published shortly at their site at which time I will go into more detail on the subject and filming; however, for those in Beijing there will be a live screening next week.

Global Times picked up the event with a feature last Monday:

Two Western journalists, annoyed by what they saw as sensational and sloppy reporting about the destruction of Beijing’s old neighborhoods, have shot a series of three short videos intended to add nuance to the issue. The resulting project, A Vanishing World, portrays the dilemmas faced by residents who are reluctant to leave their old single-story courtyard homes, but at the same time crave conveniences such as modern heating, hot water, and indoor toilets.

Unfortunately, the event was canceled after similar articles appeared in both Chinese and English press. The organizers of the event said:

“There was too little time and we rushed too much with the planning,” the center’s PR manager Wu Qiong told the Global Times Wednesday.

Later in the week, Global Times reported some other details:

“After announcing the event, the police requested a review of the film before it could be shown to the public. The police will not give an answer (yes or no) in the current time frame for Saturday’s screening,” the source told the Global Times by e-mail. “The films take on a neutral perspective, with the filmmakers giving a voice to many parties. What those parties say may or may not be what the government wants published or presented without their opinion interjected,” the source said.

While I am sad this event was canceled as it functioned as an educational forum, the full project which includes more media will be published this week on the Asia Society’s Web site.

I hope all who could not attend today’s event will help share the films next week upon release.

Cheers,

Jonah

The Fate of Old Beijing: A Vanishing World Documentary Screening & Dialog

Tu Zhengpei, 83, can't imagine a life away from the area she has called home since 1952.



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On Saturday, March 19 I am excited to present a long term project I’ve been working on with journalist Kit Gilllet. This project, co-produced with the Asia Society will be published shortly at their site at which time I will go into more detail on the subject and filming; however, for those in Beijing there will be a live screening next week.

One hutong resident enjoying the sunshine and a quiet smoke on the street outside of his home.

The screening will include three videos which document China’s fight to preserve cultural heritage in the face of rapid modernization. This project started a long, long time ago — in fact, if you’ve followed this blog you’ve seen some posts concerning the hutong issue in Beijing. While the screening will happen on the 19th, the Asia Society’s release will include an interactive platform from film maker and producer Michael Zhao and David Barreda as well as two slideshows, three videos and a a digital hutong tour.

55-year-old Bai Shixiang has lived in this same crowded courtyard his entire life.

This project was a large collaboration and the community really got behind it — including music by the unfathomably talented composer and guzheng player Wu Fei, historic imagery from Beijing Postcards, audio post production work by Jules Ambroisine and countless hours of translation work by Ami Li and Xiaoming Wei. Beyond this tremendous support from the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) and Beijingers of all kinds, sizes and sorts made this possible.

Du Yanxia, who moved to Beijing 13 years ago from the countryside, cries at the thought of the wholesale destruction of Beijing's hutong districts.

While I hope all who are available in Beijing can come and support this cause and see the films, I also help those in cyberspace, realspace or outerspace can help share these videos and project to help create greater awareness and education of an issue that touches so many hearts in not just in Beijing, but in all of the developing world. When the Asia Society releases the films I’ll go into further detail about how you can help. Mostly, its by pressing a ‘share’ button.

Below is the press release from CHP today:

Hutong Graveyard

The Fate of Old Beijing: A Vanishing World Documentary Screening & Dialog

CHP is thrilled to present The Fate of Old Beijing: A Vanishing World Documentary Screening & Dialog as the first event of our 2011 documentary screening series. This three-part, 30-minute documentary depicts China’s challenge in preserving its rich heritage while maintaining the rapid pace of modernization. Following the documentary will be a short dialog by CHP Founder He Shuzhong and one of the award-winning filmmakers, Jonah Kessel, on Beijing’s preservation challenge and the fate of Old Beijing.

About A Vanishing World by Jonah Kessel & Kit Gillet:

In the face of China’s rapid modernization, the world’s most populous country is struggling to preserve its cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more visible than in the ancient alleyways and courtyards of Beijing.

In a three-part series, filmmakers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet explore the vanishing world of Beijing’s hutongs, the realities of life within the narrow streets, and the future for these culturally-irreplaceable areas of China’s capital.

Jonah Kessel (www.jonahkessel.com), is an award-winning visual journalist based in Beijing. Between 2007-2010, Kessel took home over 40 awards for photo, video, design and Web projects. He has previously worked as the Creative Director of China Daily.

Kit Gillet previously worked for the South China Morning Post as a features writer. His work regularly appears in the likes of Forbes, Foreign Policy, and CNN, among others.

Language: Chinese and English with subtitle
Date & Time: Saturday, March 19, 2011 | 2-5pm
Venue: Studio-X Beijing, Room 103, Building A, No. 46 Fangjia Hutong, Andingmennei Dajie, Dongcheng District
Ticket: RMB20 for non-members; free entry for CHP members
Register: Via chpnews@163.com or 6403 6532, including your name, number of attendance, and contact information. Registration accepted until Friday, March 18 at 6pm.

All proceeds to benefit CHP’s Cultural Heritage Trail program.

The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP)
Supporting communities to protect their cultural heritage
www.bjchp.org

Not in Beijing? You can still wander the hutongs from your home

Shot on anyday — this is a moving glimpse into an average day wandering through the hutongs of Beijing. A visual chance to float through the narrow alleys which contain and represent thousands of years of history and culture.

This isn’t a special day, there are no protagonists and for the most part — nothing is happening. It’s simply life as it was and as it is.

This digital tour of Beijing’s ancient alleys (“hutongs”) was shot with a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM, Canon 5D Mark II and filtered with a Final Cut Pro SmoothCam Filter. The video was used as a visual background (on loop) for the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Agency’s “Do you hutong? 看!胡同” fundraiser and event aimed at helping to preserve Beijing’s culture that lives within the second ring.

Essentially, this was eye candy for a party.

The smooth camera filter is very interesting. According to the FCP manual:

Unlike other filters in Final Cut Pro, the SmoothCam filter must analyze a clip’s entire media file before the effect can be rendered or played in real time. Using the SmoothCam filter requires two independent phases:

Motion analysis: Pixels in successive frames are analyzed to determine the direction of camera movement. Analysis data is stored on disk for use when calculating the effect. Motion compensation: During rendering or real-time playback, the SmoothCam filter uses the motion analysis data to apply a four-corner transformation to each frame, compensating for camera movement.

So essentially, this filter is cropping every frame of the video to give the illusion of a leveled horizon throughout every frame. I use this quite a bit when I have no tripod handy, or in this type of case where the camera is just strapped to something that is being bumped a lot (in this case a rickshaw). Its much cheaper than renting a crane …

The video has no sound. At the event the loop was played behind a band on a big screen. Although its very simple, for those not in Beijing, its is a chance to see an average day in Beijing’s old city. Some of this footage will also be used as b-roll in a larger project I’m working on about this foundation. Look out for that video in the upcoming weeks.

Destroyed Hutong
Click on the above photo for an enlarged view of this destoroyed block of hutongs.


Other posts on hutong life and photography

Do you hutong? 看!胡同

Do you hutong?

… yes, I do …
Last week I donated some photographs to Thai friend and Beijinger @Napatra at the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center. The photos are going be used to help the local NGO’s visual communication and also help promote an upcoming event called “Do you hutong?”

I got involved after some photos I took of some destroyed hutongs circulated a little around town. See that blog entry here. Now, we’re hoping to collaborate and create a multimedia presentation on their projects and for China Daily. To see some of the photography donated to CHP visit my China portfolio of my main site here.

I’m helping to give a shout out to artists interested in helping spread awareness of the value of culture and history. CHP is looking for artists to get involved with their July 17 event. Please help and pass this link along to other Beijingers or people who might be interested. Also available are PDF versions of the information below to download and pass along to people who might be interested:

Overview

Beijing’s landscape is dramatically changing. Gone are the hutongs, once characteristic of the city, as well as the way of life associated with courtyard living. Now, ubiquitous towering skyscrapers dominate instead, leaving much of China’s rich cultural heritage at risk. Lack of awareness and enforcement of Chinese heritage-protection laws, which are well conceived but poorly implemented, are factors facing the capital city in its effort to balance the old with the new. Rapid economic development and social change have forced redevelopment of the built environment and, the Beijing of years past is now an urban center with splendor and style but, many believe, no soul.

About Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP)Old Beijing
New Beijing CHP is a pioneering Chinese NGO that empowers local communities to preserve their cultural heritage. CHP gives Chinese people a voice through capacity building, education, training, networking, and support. Current projects focus on protecting old Beijing.

About Do You Hutong?
To highlight the importance of preserving Beijing’s unique cultural heritage, CHP celebrates with Do You Hutong? – a cocktail and fundraising party featuring a signature collection of individually designed courtyard (siheyuan) gate artworks available for purchase by silent auction.

CHP and Do You Hutong? Identified the courtyard gate as the centerpiece of this event as a nod to the days and people of old Beijing. It is also a look ahead to saving what remains of a country with one of the richest cultures in the world.

CHP is inviting selected artists/designers to volunteer time and talent to a finished piece of art to donate to the event. Working from a clay model of a traditional courtyard gate, this symbolic ‘canvas’ provides a platform for individual, artistic and interpretive design. The final collection of custom artworks will be exhibited at one of the most anticipated Beijing events of the summer – Do You Hutong? – 19:00 – 23:00, 17 July, 2010. Proceeds from entry ticket and silent auction sales will benefit CHP.

How to Participate

  • CHP is providing a simple, clay model courtyard gate to each participating artist/designer. Each participant is then given the challenge to create a final piece of artwork celebrating the hutong and old Beijing tradition and lifestyle based on individual interpretation and desire. The 3-D clay model is approximately 35cm x 45cm x 35cm and weighs more than 15kg.
  • Artists/designers may use any additional materials to produce the final piece of art. All additional materials used are the financial responsibility of the participating artist. Please keep in mind that the model is designed for tabletop display only.
  • Do You Hutong? is open to all invited artists and designers – local, foreign, established, emerging and all who create across a variety of media and disciplines.
  • The Do You Hutong? event provides a platform for independent thinking and creativity. In this spirit, CHP encourages all participants to produce tasteful and mindful work.

Step 2 (One 一)
Step 2 (Two 二)
Step 3 (Three 三)

Timeline

To register, please contact Napatra Charassuvich immediately via email or phone (+86) 010 64036632 ext 605.

Submissions are open by invitation only. Space is limited and early registration is highly recommended.
Submission deadline: No later than WEDNESDAY 14 JULY

How to Submit Work
Artwork can be dropped off at Studio-X Beijing between 11am-7pm.
A103 No. 46 Fangjia Hutong
Andingmennei Dajie
Dongcheng District
Beijing

For directions to Studio-X Beijing, please visit this link.

Why Participate?

  • Raise awareness of the importance of preserving the remains of a culture with the richest history in the world
  • Strengthen ties between CHP and Beijing’s creative community
  • Expand in future years as an iconic and innovative fundraiser, and support the launch of CHP’s volunteer program, Cultural Action Network (CAN), which will have trained volunteers providing up-to-date reports on at risk sites of cultural and heritage significance in Beijing and across China.
  • Upon registration to participate, please submit a brief bio (English or Chinese) and a hi-res color photo of yourself
  • A Do You Hutong? microsite is launching very soon and CHP plans to promote participating artists and designers accordingly
  • Upon final submission, we encourage you to submit an artwork title, the medium and also how you would like for your name to be listed. Each final artwork piece will be displayed at the event and and for sale by silent auction. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will support the work of CHP.
  • Each artist receives two complimentary tickets to the 17 July event

Terms & Conditions

All donated artwork is property of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP). By submitting work, artists give CHP the sole right to use the donated artwork for its publicity, marketing and educational purposes. CHP is supplying the clay model at no cost to each invited artist. CHP is not responsible for costs associated with final design of the model, including materials, supplies, artist/designer fees, transportation, etc.

Other posts on hutong life and photography

Beijing's Expanding Hutong Graveyard

Lost toy in destoryed hutong
A TOY ARM STICKS OUT OF A DESTROYED HUTONG
Over the course of this blog and its predecessor, you’ve seen lots of imagery from Beijing’s hutongs. Most of these images have been positive or amusing scenes depicting life in the small alleys that make up the inner-second ring of Beijing. However, the reality of many of these alleys is far from positive or amusing. In the name of progress, the traditional architecture along with the unique, culturally rich way of life contained within the narrow alleys is disappearing.

A lamp post stands amongst rubble of destroyed hutongs
A LAMP POST STANDS AMONGST RUBBLE OF DESTROYED HUTONGS

While shooting a video this week on urbanization I filmed an enormous hutong graveyard just north of Beijing’s Drum Tower. Mass media has been reporting on this but normally we see photographs of historic monuments or people muling about socializing as way to depict the destruction. This is a very poor representation of the issue and makes old Beijing look like Disney world. Take these two recent examples:

If these photographers had walked ten minutes away they would have been in the environment you see here. If anyone has more examples of this poor coverage send the link along and I’ll add to the list of “poorly represented photos on this subject.” However, @maggierauch points out:
Twitter Comment

The photo stitch below is the combination of 11 photographs. Click here for a bigger, detailed version. This will give you a bit of perspective on the mass of the landscape.

Walking around these destroyed areas is very eerie. As if a bomb went off, the post-apocalypse style landscape is a ghost of culture. Some walls are left standing while others create a sea of red bricks on the ground. People’s belongings are scattered about as if they didn’t have time to pack — or perhaps they had no where to bring their things.

Hutong Block destoryed
AN ENTIRE BLOCK OF TRADITIONAL HOMES LEVELED (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

From guitars to bull skulls, posters to lamp posts — the signs of abandoned life are everywhere. He Shuzhong, founder of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center says:

After decades of development, the number of hutongs [in Beijing] has shrunk to about 1,000, down from more than 3,000 in 1949 … Few inner-city areas retain the traditional feel and historical value of the Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood.

While the hutong I live in is alive in well, there’s no guarantees it will be like this tomorrow. The photos above and below are about a 15 minute walk from my house. Many however, are trying to stop this including He’s organization. The reality is toughly spelled out on their Web site:

The Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood, also known as Gulou among both locals and foreigners living in Beijing, is a unique neighborhood. Despite Gulou’s cultural importance, multiple sources have indicated that a 5 billion RMB budget has been allocated to convert 12.5 hectares of the Drum and Bell Tower area into a ‘Beijing Time Cultural City’ – putting the neighborhood in serious danger. Once again, Old Beijing is facing another serious threat of demolition. On one side we have well-established laws and regulations that stand to protect Beijing’s history and culture. On the other side, however, there is a 5 billion RMB project waiting to commence.

Other posts on hutong life and photography

More links on the subject

Short commute to work for migrant workers in hutongs

Hutong Camping
Welcome to Wu Ying Hutong, Beijing.

This used to be a home.

Recently they knocked it down and gutted the memories form the traditional Beijing home. While this is happening all the time throughout Beijing, I’ve noticed something different on Wu Ying Hutong this week. The commute of the migrant workers who are knocking down and buildings within the hutongs has become very small.
Wu Ying Hutong
… and by commute, I mean, get out of bed and begin working. This is on my daily commute to work. I pass it twice a day. In the day, no one seems to notice the tents and beds appearing in construction sites. The above photo shows both sides of the hutong, around 180 degrees — its a stitch of 3 photos taken with the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM that rendered much like a fish-eye. Oddly enough it did stitch pretty well considering what the 14mm does to the edge of a photo (you can see one place on the worker’s left hip which didn’t stitch correctly).
Wu Ying Hutong, Beijing
Residents and vendors of the hutong pass by daily without noticing that construction sites double as homes for the workers. Or perhaps they do — but its normal, not of note to them. This difference in perception is interesting. What is normal to my neighbors, is obviously not normal to me. Down the alley from this tent, another new business is replacing a home. The walls fell down and were cleaned out in one day. The next day, bricks and bars were up. The builders here have created beds from the infrastructure of the soon-to-be business.
Hutong Bed
There’s no front wall built on this place yet. This guy has been sleeping out here for about a week. The notion of privacy in a country of 1.4 billion people almost takes an attitude of: “If I ignore you, than you can’t see me.” The public bathrooms and public showers in the hutongs are another symbol of this.
Hutong Construction
After a couple nights of passing this guy on my way home after work, I stopped to take his photo. The next morning, I woke up and walked back to the site and the same guy is out building away.

This certainly raises some questions about how long a migrant worker in Beijing could go homeless, if they can keep sleeping in their construction sites.

More to come on this …