Hunger and curiosity
When I spotted this little cutie in a Gloria Jeans cafe in Crescent Mall, Ho Chi Minh City, I wasn’t sure if she was hungry or just curious. The more I thought about it, the more I realised there’s little difference between the two, as curiosity is a kind of hunger – hunger to learn, to experience, to taste the new things. For me, this is one of the key factors that drives photographers.
Photography is first and foremost about seeing, and curiosity opens our eyes. It’s curiosity that allows us to see things differently, because it motivates us to take the time to look more deeply – to explore new angles and really try to see things for all they are.
If I wasn’t curious about the world around me, I would have walked right past the hardware store in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and never seen the way the metal pipes that were on sale created cool patterns that led to me capturing what is one of my favourite (and most popular) photographs.
If I wasn’t curious about the way people live, I would never have discovered urban villages and squatter communities in China and Vietnam and captured slices of everyday life that others may see as mundane, uninteresting, even ugly, but that to me held an inherent beauty that inspired me to return again and again.
If I wasn’t curious, I would never have gone to see what was happening when people in Guangzhou held anti-Japanese protests back in 2012.
Curiosity is not just a force that affects what we explore and capture, it also affects the way we capture it. The hunger to try new things leads us to ask “what would happen if I tried it this way?”. If not for such curiosity, I wouldn’t have discovered the way a 1980’s optical fibre lamp could look if I shot it with a longer shutter speed and blew on the fibres…
… how the view from my apartment window would look if I shook the camera while I took the picture…
… or how Canton Tower would look if I did the same thing using a camera phone.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons I could never give up being a photographer. The curiosity that is a large part of who I am is something that will never go away, and this hunger to explore, to discover and to share what I see with others goes hand in hand with the art and practice of photography. Often, it even gives a kind of license to indulge the curious beast within, as the camera can provide a kind of excuse to explore beyond where others are expected to venture. I certainly wouldn’t have seen many of the things I have seen over the last ten or so years had I not had a camera. Some may say that it should just be about the experience, and the camera shouldn’t make a difference, but for some reason I am not content to experience things alone – I need to share it with as many people as I can. It’s my curiosity that makes these sights and experiences seem so interesting to me that I cannot keep them to myself.
So I was glad I had my camera with me when I saw that little girl in the coffee shop. I saw so much of myself in her, and am glad that I could introduce her to you all. Do you identify with her too, or has the curious child in you gotten so caught up in the struggles inherent in day to day life that they’ve forgotten how to appreciate all the joy that can be found even in the most mundane moments of life? I’m curious to read your comments!