Essay and Photographs: Tianjin, China

Wisdom consists in 10 parts: nine parts silence and one part discovery.

The longer my stay in Tianjin the less my desire to photograph. This may seem normal as any place with time might become less of a novelty and more routine, but Tianjin never evolved into a kind of norm for me. I was always distressed by it and sometimes shocked by it or lost in my attempts to understand it.

Since the camera puts its mechanical distance between the subject and the viewer, I probably just needed my time to be in the city without obstruction. Yet at the most productive points of my evening photo work I found a place that felt like a version of the cyberpunk and science fiction noir- with its unforgiving pace, hypnotic neon signage, pollution, and noise- that I had read in books or been dazzled by in the cinema.

Fiction aside there is an inherent wisdom in the contemporary urban landscape. As soon as it starts to tease its residents with feelings of the familiar, the building across the street that was a corner store is being gutted for a bank and your neighbors upstairs are new. Transience- I learned here- is the essence of life and the acceptance of life's ambiguity is the essence of internal peace.