Pretty Girls, Ugly Weather and Other Distractions in China


As I looked through my viewfinder to shoot a group of railway passengers at China’s Guangzhou Railway Station, I suddenly felt a cold splash of water on my neck.

Rain! Where was my umbrella — and the photographer/assistant who was supposed to be holding it over me and my gear?

I turned to find him standing under the collapsible canopy by himself. He had failed to notice my situation, as he was too busy ogling a group of female office workers splashing past us.

Year of the Tiger

I was in Guangzhou to shoot a series of pictures about railway passengers as they began their journey home for the Chinese Lunar New Year.

It is estimated by the Chinese government that there will be over 2 billion rail journeys during the 40-day holiday period. Many of these travelers are workers from the villages, and this is their only opportunity to get home to see their families.

According to the Chinese horoscope, it is the Year of the Tiger. People born under this sign can be extremely short-tempered and come into conflict with other people, especially those in authority.

With my wet feet, rain-splashed head, and men in uniforms — green, gray or blue, depending on their ranking — telling me what I couldn’t photograph, I was beginning to act like I was born in the Year of the Tiger.

Rain or Shine

Before I left for this assignment, the woman organizing the shoot for me said, “It’s raining heavily and you won’t be able to take any pictures.”

When I arrived in Guangzhou, my assistant told me, “You are not allowed on the railway platform and you won’t be able to work outside because it’s raining.”

Some of my favorite pictures have been taken in adverse weather conditions. An Australian farmer walking through a freak red dust storm, an English missionary boating down a tributary of the Amazon River in torrential rain, and Iranians skiing in a heavy snowstorm are a few that spring to mind.

So on this shoot I forgot about the bad weather and concentrated on taking pictures. I ended up with very wet feet from standing in pools of water as I slipped sideways and skipped backwards looking for interesting photographs.

As we know, if you are on assignment, no matter what the state of the weather, pictures still have to be produced. It’s always possible to go back to the hotel after the assignment and get dry — but it’s not always possible to wait for more pleasant weather conditions.

So I sloshed around in the rain looking for “the picture” — while my assistant clung to my umbrella, stayed dry and watched the girls go by.