Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Photographing Models, Guilin, China: October 9, 2019


We were up at 4:00 am, to pack, and depart by 5:00 am. No coffee, no breakfast before a one-hour drive to a secluded spot to meet a farmer with a water buffalo for an early morning photo shoot at Lingui, Guilin, Guangxi, China.

After turning onto a long unpaved road we arrived seemingly in the middle of nowhere when it was still quite dark. However, just as we arrived another busload of photographers also arrived at this spot in the middle of nowhere. In total darkness we hurried to the best waterside location edging out the other photography group. We had time for a few test shots in near darkness before the models showed up.

Two "farmer" models each with a performing water buffalo took a position at separate stone bridges in front of the beautiful, unworldly karst mountain formations. Photographing and watching our models was beautiful and hilarious at the same time. These "farmers" are now full time models who pose for about 1-2 hours each morning. They bring their own props: plow, hoe, smoking pipe, and the buffalo. Their repertoire consists of sitting and smoking when the light is low, using a piece of grass to scratch the buffalo's ear, and repetitively driving the buffalo back and forth over the stone bridge and along the waterside. They begin before the sun comes up and their work is done when the sun fully rises above the mountain peaks.

Farmer/buffalo couple #1:





Farmer/buffalo couple #2:



Once the sun is up, the shoot is over and the models take a break.




The competing photographers were all Chinese who perhaps like us, were attempting to capture a time that is long gone. Anyway, my sentimental notions about photographing rural life in China were shattered. As with sausage making, it's best to focus on the end result instead of the ingredients it takes to make it.

We boarded our bus for about an hour drive to the city of Yangshuo where we had a late American-style breakfast on West Street. Yangshuo was another lovely city surrounded by more Karst formations and the Lijiang River.

West Street in Yangshuo. The KFC Colonel is just visible on the left side.

While we ate our late breakfast, this guy smoked multiple cigars and his little dog sat on the table watching passersby. They were both in the same position more than an hour later when we walked back by. The dog's name is NuNu which he said means sweet baby. She coyly refused to look at the camera, but was very happy to be petted.



As we were getting back into our bus, I saw the best message T-shirt: "Dear Algebra, please stop asking me to find your X. She is never coming back!"

Late afternoon brought a fisherman/cormorant photo shoot in front of another Karst mountain landscape. The group of three mountains is famous because it's on the 20 Yuan note. It's a favorite photo spot for brides and grooms. While we were there two bridal couples were photographed in this landscape.


Our human model is 70 years old. Another illusion shattered--he no longer fishes for a living. Fishing with cormorants hasn't been done for at least 20 years. He used to be a cormorant fisherman, but now can use his history and skills to make a lucrative living as a photographer's model.



As the light faded, our fisherman lit his lantern and pulled out poses from his repertoire.





Overnight in Yangshuo, Guangxi, China.

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