There he was, climbing up a wall with a ladder to get a better view of what was on the other side. A quote stated something along the lines of ‘there are times you have to change the viewpoint to get the right image’. This small image of photographer Marc Riboud demonstrating how he created some of his iconic photos, struck a chord with me. I was in China visiting the 2010 exhibition: THE INSTINCTIVE MOMENT – A Retrospective, at the Shanghai Art Museum. I was aware of his more famous photos, the Eiffel Tower painter, the woman placing the flower in the gun and the fabulously framed antique shop dealer photo from Beijing. These images by the renowned Magnum photographer were all there to see.
Shanghai was about to host the World Expo and the city was busy’ cleaning up’ its urban spaces. This translated to, among other things, the destruction of many old, traditional neighbourhoods, the so-called Longtangs. The homes were bulldozed and the occupants moved into new high-rise buildings.
Prior to seeing the Riboud exhibition, I snuck into an old Longtang neighbourhood that was in the process of being demolished. To my surprise, there were still people living among the rubble, refusing to move. I spend a couple of hours taking photos and got out before I ran into trouble with the local authorities.
Having seen Riboud’s photos, many taken in China between 1957-2002, I kept thinking about that little photo of him looking over the wall. This was a metaphor for me, to look beyond the obvious and to take some risks in my photography. The next day I went back to the Longtang to take more photos. As I wandered among the rubble, I saw it, a wall that prevented me from seeing what lay beyond it. Instinctively I climbed it to look over. The moment I had reached the top I saw a lone man cycling past a grand old house that was still standing. I lifted the camera and captured a photo that to this day I will remember as my Marc Riboud moment.
Merci Marc, you inspired me to focus closer on the moment and the emotions that can be found within that reality.
“Seeing is the paradise of the soul.”
(24.06.1923 – 30.08.2016)
‘Merci Marc’ by Roman W. Schatz, Shanghai 2010