Zheng Bo has some beautiful art in his magazine (City Archive) and when I met him he invited me to his CITY. I call it CITY because that is what is on the wall of his place. After going through it, I couldn’t really decide it as an office, or a publishing house, an art gallery, studio, or jewelry store. I just call it Mr. Zheng’s CITY.
As an amateur photographer I like to nose around, taking pictures of everything. As Mr. Zheng chatted with my friend, he said it was OK for me to move around and take some pictures. His CITY has a lot of beautiful art, and Miao jewelry. The best description of me, when I’m after a story, might be like a dog. A dog will sniff around everything, looking for any kind of scents that are a little different. The CITY provided me with a lot of very interesting photos. I imagine every piece of art has a story behind it. I don’t recall any blank walls or empty desks. Every wall has art, every desk has something pretty, or interesting.
I was fully engrossed in something when I heard the click of a camera. I noticed Mr. Zheng was there, taking pictures of me. So what, I was taking pictures of his stuff. He just smiled and gave a wave. I nodded as if to say, “Take all the pictures you want, fair is fair.” As a foreigner, I am often asked to pose for pictures. Foreigners are a bit rare in Guizhou, maybe like pandas. I forgot about Mr. Zheng and his beautiful camera.
As I was satisfying my curiosity about his CITY, I noticed Mr. Zheng’s technique. As I move a bit like a dog, nosing around, Mr. Zheng moves like a cat, perhaps like a cat stalking a bird, or a lion stalking a zebra.
He is quiet, inconspicuous, and always on balance. He holds the camera stable, and has a solid base. As he squeezes off a photo, he moves the camera slightly for the next shot, making sure that the light, framing, and focus are just right. He doesn’t take just one photo, but at least two or three from a position. He didn’t ask me to pose. He prefers a natural photo, with the subject unaware of the camera. That is why he learned to move so quietly, almost invisible to his subject. I forgot he was taking my pictures, but at the same time, I studied his technique. Just as I am an amateur photographer, he is a pro.
When I came to China I would often ask students what their parents did for a living. Almost always they would describe a parent as either a worker, or a boss. It is like there are only two jobs in China, worker or boss. In the West, we often make the judgment about a person based on what they do. A journalist tells a story and a reporter reports the facts. A college professor is an intellectual and a teacher, and a student is just learning, An artist is creative, and a publisher brings together all the pieces of storytelling, from recruiting talent to keeping finances in order. A photographer can be like a reporter, or a story teller. So I had a little trouble putting Mr. Zheng into a category: publisher, teacher, artist, journalist, businessman, or perhaps salesman. He is definitely a worker. He is all of the above. Perhaps a new category, Crossover Master, could describe Mr. Zheng. He has worn so many hats. Describing those activities is beyond the scope of this blog post. I hope to revisit this fellow.
As we were leaving I asked if I could have another interview, because I really didn’t seem to understand enough. He said OK and gave me his name card . . . College Professor Zheng. He said he didn’t have much time in Guiyang because he was busy with his job in Taijiang County. He is Secretary General there.