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Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Yellow Flag

7 April 2010 by davidl

Sometimes a minimalist approach can achieve dramatic effects: I think this is the case with this week’s highlight from the Liverpool’s Chinatown: Through the lens Flickr competition, by Flickr user Abi :) , in which a black and white photograph is tinted with a powerful yellow with captivating results.

Black and white photograph of a crowd and smoking firecrackers, with flag and other details picked out in yellow

Yellow Flag © Abi :)

I don’t know if the photographer chose yellow for a particular reason, but the symbolism of the colour in Chinese culture makes it an interesting choice. Yellow represents, amongst many other things, earth, the balance of yin and yang, and stability, making it an apt colour for a photo mostly comprised of shades of two opposites, black and white, and with so volatile a subject as smoking firecrackers.

Visually it is a very arresting colour to use, but though the flag draping dramatically on the left is one of the first things the eye is drawn to, there are spots of the colour discreetly added throughout the rest of the image – a coat or hat, the firecrackers, the sun-like decoration above the doorway - as though the warmth and joy of the colour is seeping into the pores of the photo.

There is more to the image than just this immediate colour element however. The flag and smoke make a neat vertical symmetry which frames the doorway in the background: the crowds and upstairs windows have a similar effect on the horizontal; this makes a complete frame which concentrates the gaze to the partially-obscured doorway, making it a subtle third subject for the viewer after the yellow flag and the firecrackers, which are the main focus of attention for the crowd. See the photo in a large size.


To celebrate our photography exhibition China: Through the Lens of John Thomson 1868-72 at the Merseyside Maritime Museum we want you to submit your photos of Liverpool’s Chinatown to our Flickr pool – our favourite photo submitted by 24 May will win a banquet for two at Yuet Ben, with two runners-up winning exhibition catalogues. Find out more on the competition page.

  1. Phyllis says:

    I love the tangible excitement of the crowd experiencing the explosion of the firecrackers, contrasting with the intense yellow of the flag with the Chinese writing picked out on it. Would be interesting to have a translation.

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