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Zhejiang Tour Touches Australian Camera Team
    2007-11-21 11:39:38     CRIENGLISH.com

Most travelers take photographs or shoot short films when they visit other countries, because the images will recall their happy memories of the trip. In this sense, east China's Zhejiang province has a lot to offer. It boasts imposing sceneries, a rich cultural heritage as well as delicate local products. Before this year's National Day holiday, a group of Australians visited the region with their cameras. But they were not ordinary tourists; they were a team of professional photographers and cinematographers. So why did they come to China? Our reporter Li Ling has more.

Related: Filming Team from West Australia in Zhejiang Province

Although thousands of miles apart, Zhejiang and Western Australia have been sister provinces for 20 years. To mark this anniversary, Western Australia's government sent a group of photographers and cameramen to Zhejiang in late September as part of an exchange program. In return, an acclaimed Chinese photographer from Zhejiang will also travel to Western Australia later this year.

The four-member Australian team visited three major cities in the region - the provincial capital Hangzhou, coastal city Ningbo and Shaoxing, home to dozens of cultural personalities in Chinese history.

Brad Rimmer is the team's lead photographer. Though their films have not been processed yet, he believes the work of his team and his Chinese counterpart, Wu Pinhe, will be very much meaningful for people in the two countries.

Australian camera team at work in Zhejiang, with Brad Rimmer, second from right, and Torstein Dyrting, third from right. [Photo courtesy of Shaoxing government]

"There would be an exhibition of my and Mr. Wu's work together in Perth, and hopefully it would tour some regional centers in Western Australia and China. During that time, the documentary turns out to be a witness dealing with different cultures and how we as photographers view the world and our perspectives. People in Australia are incredibly interested in China."

Rimmer says the Western Australia-China connection used to be driven by industry; for example, mineral resources. But with the approach of 2008 Olympic Games and increasing numbers of Chinese immigrants into their country, Australians have become more curious about the social development and everyday lives of ordinary people in China. Rimmer hopes his camera can help satisfy their curiosity.

Rimmer is an award-winning photographer who won the City of Perth Photo Image award three times. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at home and abroad, including the 2004 Pingyao International Photography Festival in China. Rimmer says there is a big place in his heart for China and it has inspired him to travel there more than 10 times in the past nine years.

Agriculture and tea used to be the main subjects in his photos about China. But the more Rimmer traveled across the country, the more fascinated he was by the living conditions of Chinese people and their feelings and their outlook. Rimmer's projects include photographing life on the Yangtze River and a creating a photo exhibition about the influence of late celebrities on present-day Chinese society.

On the Zhejiang trip, Rimmer focused on people rather than natural beauty or historical sites.

"It is more for documentary than for tourism purposes. My work is basically portraiture. What I actually do is I randomly find people in different locations, because I don't want things to be too organized. I like to find ordinary people going about their daily life and do a portrait in an environmental sense, wherever they are - in their houses or in shops in the street - and then ask them some simple questions. And one of the questions is what their dream is. It is a nice way of establishing more information about the person, rather than being an anonymous person in a photograph."

Rimmer says there will be a quotation of the person's answer after each photograph. In this way, the photos become more vivid, and the audience may be amazed by the contrast between the respondents' replies and their expectations, which are often based on the subject's appearance and clothes.

During their stay in Shaoxing, the Australian camera team had to shoot in drizzles, because a seasonal typhoon had just left the area. Instead of complaining about the weather, Rimmer says the rain helped create a refreshing atmosphere and made his visit to the ancient town more pleasant. There, he found one of his favorite snapshots. The subject is an elderly man in his seventies, who is part of a crowd watching Rimmer taking photos in a tailor's shop.

"He was a lovely man and he watched the whole process. So I approached him and asked him if I could photograph him and meet his sons and grandsons. And we went back to photograph him in his house. It was a very small place, but that was a beautiful moment, because for me, it is credibly a respect for the gentleman, and to be allowed to come in and to take his picture. Regardless of what my picture comes out to be, I will never forget that situation."

Human perspective is the principle that guides Rimmer's documentary photography. He says that although Zhejiang is an economically vibrant region, local people's dreams are neither aggressive nor driven by lust for material gains. To some extent, that is evident in the people's plain nature.

"What impressed me most is that their dream is really very humble. Most of them are about their families, the aspirations which they know could happen, sending their children to university. I'm sure if I did the same thing in Australia, the situation would be different. I'm sure they would say, 'I'd like to win the lottery' or 'I wish to have more real estate'. So I'm very interested in the social landscape of the ordinary Chinese person."

In addition, Rimmer says though he was preoccupied with his photography, he also was impressed by infrastructure developments, the service industry and locals' eagerness to help visitors.

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