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Posts tagged with 'Chinese New Year'

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Old and Light

28 April 2010 by David

Older buildings have often outlived most of the people who set inside them, but their meaning and significance is usually defined by the way they are used by those same people. This week’s highlight from our Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens Flickr competition, by Flickr user diaryof70steen, is an attractive composition which, though it consists of two buildings and nothing else, says much about different cultures and communities over time.

19th-century stone building with Corinthian columns and dome beside a colourful Chinese arch

old and light © diaryof70steen

Visually the image creates a striking parallel between the vibrancy of the Chinese arch, its curved roofs and intricate patterns, and the stoic grandeur of the Black-E centre, with its magnificent dome and Corinthian columns. With a whited-out sky the many shapes and patterns of the buildings stand out crisply in an almost abstract way.

More than the architecture however, the photo tells of a long history of different Liverpudlian communities. The Black-E – taking its name from its smoke-stained stonework that was cleaned in the 1980s – combines a contemporary arts centre with a community centre (the UK’s first community arts project), and is based in the former Great George Street Chapel, which closed in 1967. This in turn had been the centre for a programme of artistic, educational and social welfare activities as well as worship, and was itself the second Chapel on the site, opening in 1841 after the 1811 original was destroyed by fire. It seems appropriate that a building so long the hub of many community activities is captured here next to a great symbol of Liverpool’s long-established Chinese community, itself also dating from the 19th century. See the photo in a large size. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Masks

21 April 2010 by David

While holiday snaps are often intended to record a static memory of a place and mood – think of all those posed pictures of your family on the beach with fixed smiles – the more artistic photograph can often capture a whole narrative in a single image. I think in this week’s highlight from our Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens Flickr competition, by Flickr user Graham Morgan (greybeats), something of both approaches is captured.

Chinese New Year photograph with colourful Chinese dragon on the right and men wreathed in smoke on the left

Chinese New Year © Graham Morgan

More familiar as a writhing, twisting creature, the Chinese dragon here is seen as a massive, still block of colours, occupying the whole right side of the image: the lack of body makes it hard to imagine its full size, and it certainly looks like it is towering menacingly over the people on the left. However what is especially interesting about the dragon and the people are their positions and their masks: all of the figures are to some extent covering their faces and none appear to directly acknowledge the others; instead all are facing different directions in a curious, almost posed manner.

The viewer knows that there are really people inside the dragon, hidden under the costume – similarly the man in the foreground half-covers his face, presumably against smoke and noise, the figure behind is half-masked (or half-unmasked?), and those further back still are almost gone completely behind the smoke; everyone is only half-revealed, as though hovering between two personalities, or emerging from a chrysalis. Though it is Chinese New Year, it seems apt that this reminds me of the Roman god Janus (from whom we get the name January), often depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions: back to the old year and forward to the new. This image captures that idea of uncertain but exciting transition, change and ambiguity. See the photo in a large size. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Yellow Flag

7 April 2010 by David

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. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Dragon

1 April 2010 by David

Keeping with the black and white theme from last week, this week I’ve chosen another monochrome masterpiece as a highlight from the Liverpool’s Chinatown: Through the lens Flickr competition, by Graham Lloyd.

Black and white photograph of a Chinese dragon dancing on a wooden floor

Dragon © Graham Lloyd

Taken during a performance at the Black-E Centre, the play of pattern and light captures many interesting details in one frozen moment of dance. The ornate swirling patterns of the dragon’s head and back contrast sharply with the even lines of the wooden floor, which, whoosing diagonally across the photo, enhance the sense of frenzy and dynamism seen in the dancing dragons of Chinese New Year.

One tale of Ancient China tells of a solar eclipse, thought to be caused by a huge dragon slowly devouring the sun: only by shouting and causing a commotion did the people scare the dragon away from its meal. The picture reminds the viewer of this idea that dragons are not just creatures from fantasy films and celebrations, but represent something genuinely frightening – the perspective here, looking down on the dragon like spectators viewing a dangerous caged animal, enhances this sense of danger… until the viewer notices the contemporary footwear and the mood suddenly lightens. See the photo in a large size. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Through the window

24 March 2010 by David

To complement John Thomson’s photographs in the China: Through the lens exhibition, and after the vibrant colours of previous highlights from the Liverpool’s Chinatown: Through the lens Flickr competition, this week I’ve chosen an interesting black and white image by Aidan McManus (adebⓞnd), which has both a geometric beauty of its own and a strong human element.

Black and white photograph of young girl looking out from an upstairs window

Through the Window © adebⓞnd / Aidan McManus

The structure of the photo is simple, bold and effective: the lines and rectangles give a sense of harmony and balance, as though the viewer has zoomed in on a Piet Mondrian painting. The various shades of grey and black and the two bright white smudges of light give the photo an almost abstract quality, but, despite occupying only a small part of the image, the girl intently and patiently watching the New Year’s celebrations below is the actual focal point of the picture. 

This human element is further enhanced by the marks scribbled and smeared in the steamed-up glass, the sense of now-absent fingers and hands  – save for a solitary artist at the far right – chaotically clearing a view to the street below a reflection of the excited activity of the New Year parade. See the photo in a large size. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Anticipation

17 March 2010 by David

After a couple of entries bustling with activity, for this week’s highlight from the Liverpool’s Chinatown: Through the lens Flickr competition I’ve chosen an image almost completely devoid of people: this 2009 photo of Liverpool’s iconic Chinese arch, added to the pool by Mark McGowan.

Large Chinese arch in hazy yellow fog

Foggy Chinese arch © Mark McGowan

Taken just before the Chinese New Year celebrations, there is a sense of expectation and mystery to the image, the sunlight just glinting off the brilliant gold of the arch and the viewer imagining the crowds that will be filling the ghostly streets.

The different architectural styles contrast but compliment each other; there are no absolutely horizontal or vertical lines, but various angular perspectives which draw the eye in different directions. At once the viewer is invited in through the arch by the receding buildings and flags of Nelson Street, but at the same time to the top of the image: neither the square pillars of the arch nor the round pillars of the Black-E Centre to the left are straightforwardly vertical, both tapering up towards the shrouded sun and pulling the viewer’s gaze with them. The result is a constant shifting of perspectives, never settling, like an MC Escher print. See the photo in a large size. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: A meeting of cultures

10 March 2010 by David

For this week’s highlight from our Liverpool’s Chinatown: Through the lens Flickr competition I’ve chosen this intriguing image by Alan Cookson, which captures Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in amongst the vibrant colours of the flags of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral seen in the distance, with crowds and colourful Chinese New Year flags in the foreground

Chinese New Year © Alan Cookson

I think this photograph is really interesting both in terms of its themes and its composition. The solid, classical beauty of the Cathedral and the surrounding impressionistic greys and browns in the background contrast strikingly against the vivid, swirling Chinese flags in the foreground, neatly capturing two of the various different cultures which exist side-by-side in Liverpool.

The Cathedral and gold dragon’s head are neatly framed in the centre of the image, drawing the eye over and past the crowds, but they are also an integral part of the photo as a whole: though it is a landscape photo the image is made up of a series of vertical elements – a row of flags, the Cathedral tower (331 feet, 1.5 inches tall!) and an onlooker at the right side, these different elements combining seamlessly to give a natural flow to the picture. See the photo in a large size.

Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown Through the lens: Dancing dragon

3 March 2010 by David

Our photo competition pool ‘Liverpool’s Chinatown: Through the lens‘ has had over 100 photos submitted so far and I’m really excited by the variety and imagination shown in people’s photos of the Chinatown area and Chinese culture.

In this first weekly blog highlight from the competition entries I’ve chosen this view of Nelson Street by Ian Hughes (ihughes22). It’s a bustling and eye-catching image, the colours of the flags and the dragon looming powerfully over the massed crowds adding to the sense of drama and excitement of the occasion – especially since the dragon almost looks like he’s staring straight out at us! Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens competition

12 February 2010 by Sam

archive photo of a woman in traditional Chinese costume

A Manchu bride, Beijing 1871-2. © The Wellcome Library, London

The pioneering photojournalist John Thomson travelled for years through China with a lot of heavy, cumbersome equipment to take the incredible photos that are now featured in the China through the lens of John Thomson 1868-1872 exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum.

We don’t expect you to go to such lengths for our latest competition. Instead we’d like you to take your nice light modern cameras or camera phones on a journey to explore Liverpool’s Chinatown and Chinese culture. Read more…

Lions and tigers, no bears – oh my!

9 February 2010 by Sam

dancer in traditional Chinese costume

Lion dancer at the Maritime Museum

The Year of the Tiger starts on 14 February but there are so many events taking place to celebrate the Chinese New Year here at National Museums Liverpool that we’ve had to spread them over several weekends.

The first major event was the opening of the blockbuster exhibition China through the lens of John Thomson 1868-1872 at Merseyside Maritime Museum, which is the first time that this incredible pioneering collection of photographs has been shown in England after touring China last year. It’s a stunning exhibition but don’t take my word for it – here’s a review from The Times last week – just one of many great write ups that the exhibition has had so far. Read more…

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