Street photography is something that I’m neither good at, nor typically enjoy, but that’s partially because of what the term has come to represent. I have little time for the paparazzi style of lurking in the shadows with a long zoom lens, waiting to snap unsuspecting ‘subjects’ as they go about their business. After spending a day with Ying Tang, exploring the back streets of Old Shanghai, however, I can assure you she is not one of those photographers.
Ying has a rare ability to spot moments about to happen and be ready for them when they do. It’s easy to imagine a photographer of her genre simply roaming the streets, snapping away frantically and, once home, figuring out the keepers. This is not Ying’s style. As we ventured deeper into the narrow passageways that represent almost all that remains of the old city, we talked with the elders (she talked, I nodded), laughed with the children, and entertained them by showing images as they were created.
At one point she had me sitting with a family outside their house, learning how to properly use chopsticks; by playing solitaire with marbles. The whole day was a truly memorable experience, and it was obvious that Ying is only interested in creating images that truly capture the character of those winding streets and the people who inhabit them.
Ying is currently in Germany, bringing her unique style to documenting a very different way of life. It’s fascinating to see the similarities and the contrasts in her images. She doesn’t try to categorize her work as either photojournalism or documentary. “For me”, she says, “It is a personal journey to be out there on the street and catch the moment that means something for me”.
I think she does a mighty fine job of doing just that.