Visit Beijing and you will discover a sometimes awkward mix of contrasts – new/old, colourful/monochrome, disorder/conformity. Locals ride their bikes everywhere and newcomers risk being run over by cars caught up in a traffic system with seemingly few rules. Locals are impervious to the chaos, often calm in the haze of smog, woodsmoke and industrial effluent.
I love the randomness. The colour. The activity. The lazily stacked bicycles leaning against old men playing Mahjong. We visited China in 2004 and some of my favourite memories of the trip were those spent wandering along the hutongs – unique enclaves that dotted the city. We were outsiders looking in on a demographic not tarnished by vanity or self-consciousness.
Over time, many of the old hutongs seem to have disappeared – demolished in favour of new buildings and high rises. Some of them are now designated as protected areas. I’m grateful that I was there in time to capture fragments of life in these remarkable walled towns.
These photos were taken with a Nikon 5700 in 2004 and recently enhanced in Photomatix.