The Views of “Nowhere”

"From the Terminal Station, Guangzhou 1997" #54 ©Toru Ukai

When I was absorbed in photographing night scenes of Guangzhou, to tell the truth, I was a manager of a Japan-China joint venture of preschool education. I worked at a clean office in a skyscraper during the day, then I took a picture in the chaotic station square or at a damp street corner at night, and finally I went to bed at a hotel suite with very good service.

In those days Chinese migrants were pouring into such a metropolis as Guangzhou like an avalanche in pursuit of better life. The area in and around the terminal station was always incredibly crowded. A huge number of people stayed in the station square for days until they could get jobs in the city. I couldn’t help feeling a deep sense of contradiction. The difference between my comfortable life and the chaotic situation outside was too big to bury. So every picture taken on the street looked like a dream or a nightmare, though I myself watched and photographed it…

24 years have passed since then and those pictures still remain dreamlike for me in a different sense. I’m puzzled how rapidly and boldly China has changed into a superpower. I probably can’t take such a picture again in Guangzhou that is among the three largest cities in China. It seems that now the pictures just show me the views of “nowhere”.

No matter what I photograph, a picture essentially comes from the external world that I don’t really understand. And as soon as I photograph something, the picture can tell me only the past that I cannot touch at all. A picture is so mysterious in spite of the clear appearance. It drifts eternally on the sea of indefinite and unknowable meanings.


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