asia

Postcards from Taipei + A Playlist for Asia

taipei_danshui_fishermans_wharf_sophia_hsin-5.jpgSunset at Fisherman’s Wharf in Tamshui, Taipei

It is so weird being back in Canada after a month in Asia.

While I feel that my soul will forever be stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between North America and Asia, I am glad for photos and stories to linger over these trips and memories.

When I think of Taipei, I think of the scorching tropics, the smell of pineapples, scooter exhaust and a city vibrant with the best selection of night markets, alleyways and temples that take you back in time.

Here you will find the perfect mix of western influence and Chinese tradition with traces of Japan. But the best thing about Taipei is always the hospitality of people who are ready to make a tourist feel like local.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park: One of my favourite places with ongoing exhibitions of Asian designers and creatives, music festivals and coffee shops to sit in and watch Taipei go by.

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Taipei Main Station. Taken in 2014

So if you ever find yourself in Taipei, be prepared to let go of your western politeness, go all out with the best food, island scooter adventures and a warm experience of Asia you will not too soon forget.

A playlist for your trip: 

1. Crowd Lu – 100 Ways of Living (盧廣仲 – 100種生活)
If you are on the hunt for Taiwanese musicians this guy is such a good place to start. I love his humble lyrics like buying breakfast with homies (soy milk and salty donuts all day every day), wise words from his grandmother to the pursuit of his musical journey. He also works often with my favourite photographer Hideaki Hamada.

2. Nujabes – Aruarian Dance
Trust me. So good.

3. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
I found out about Mr. Sakamoto during my college years and my ears have been in love since. A pianist and slightly moodier composer (much like Studio Ghibli for adults), you will find yourself moved with his soft and deep pieces like Energy Flow and Rain.

4. Deserts Chang – Bao Bei (張懸 – 寶貝)
This lady is an inspo with her soft vocals, rich cadenzas and creating music for deeply sentimental people.

5. Shanghai Restoration Project – Jade Buddha Temple w/ Di Johnston
I found out about Dave Liang during my years living in China. It has been a treat following this Asian American producer turn Chinese folk songs into modern tunes. Shanghai Restoration Project brings me back to Shanghainese streets, steamed dumplings and music theatres with women clad in silk gowns and jade bracelets.

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Taipei has a pace that is surprisingly laid back for a popular Asian city. I love watching the locals stop for photos of flowers, trees, boats and anything that catches their fancy.
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Exploring old alley ways around Gongguan. Many of these apartments used to be air raid hidings from the Taiwan/Japan War in the 1900s.
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Monster shaved ice at Roji, Taipei – Are they not cute? I died a sweet death

If there was a time I grew up not knowing whether I was Taiwanese or Canadian, I am grateful for this city where I learn about my heritage every time I visit. Taipei will forever be my home away from home and hold a special place in my heart.

I leave you with a favourite quote from Ansel Adams:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

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Till next time.

Postcards from Bangladesh

bangladesh_travel_photography-14.jpgHeading towards adventure.

The are 196 countries in the world.

I am really happy to say that I have visited a handful of them and am enjoying the process of checking each one off my list.

While it feels like a waiting game some days at home when I am editing through the deep recesses of my hard drive. I hope I never stop in wonder to marvel and be expectant at these opportunities and amazing things I get to see.

bangladesh_travel_photography-3.jpgLight at dusk and sights of traffic in Jessore, taken before crossing the street to hop into my van. This is one of my favourites from Bangladesh.

Without further ado, here are postcards from Bangladesh. Taken in dusty streets with tropical humidity, surrounded by the sound of prayer call, taken beside women clad in colour saris and rickshaw drivers who distractedly wave you down in this beautiful and mysterious country that has captured my heart in more ways than photos.

bangladesh_travel_photography-6.jpgSmiling boy wearing his prayer hat. Taken in a shrimp processing factory in Chila. 

bangladesh_travel_photography-10.jpgVisiting a local village by the Pushar river in Khulna. I love how the green in her dress matches the tree.

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Made our driver stop for shots on our way to the airoport. A snapshot of the green and lush river country Bangladesh is known for.

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The cutest boy from the village and a baby goat with the most spindly legs. I have found a new love for goats after visiting India and Bangladesh.

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Local school children on their way home from school. I found him saluting our gang of security guards that tail us wherever we go and asked him to pose for this shot.

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Till next time.

Photos from Bangladesh: A Campaign with World Vision Canada

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An afternoon on the streets of Dhaka

I remember my first day waking up in Dhaka. The world’s most populated city with 14 million people, filled with blaring horns, dusty concrete walls, the smell of curry and the sound of prayer call five times a day.

I had partnered with World Vision Canada on their No Child For Sale campaign where we would visit area development projects in the slums of Bangladesh, visit communities deep in the country, dive into gathering resources on child labour issues involved in the supply chain and how it leads back to consumers in Canada.

I remember visiting countless night schools, interviewing five year olds that worked as waste pickers on garbage mountains and meeting children with stories that seemed too brutal to exist. Along the way, I was also cared for by staff that treated me like family and meet people that were working as hard as they possibly could to improve those situations.

When I tell people that I have travelled to Bangladesh most people reply with ” Why would you go there? It’s so chaotic and dirty.” or “You must feel super grateful now when you see the way people live there.” Both are true and both are perceptions that scratch the bare surface of what is real and what it was like being there.

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Mukta and Bhabna both worked as waste pickers at a very young to help their families. Through attending the learning centre that World Vision partners with, they were able to learn skills and pass exams to enter the local school system. Mukta wants to be teacher and Bhabna wants to be a doctor. Both of them love being able to attend school.

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Children from the village and visiting boys that work at machinery shops in Jessore.

Creatively, this trip really made me realize the beauty of photography and how it gives me the ability to document stories and be a voice for people that need to be heard. Along the way, I also realized that it was less about me fulfilling my creative vision but about being a person that cared more than taking a great photo and walking away.

I remember being anxious about how gruesome the environment was and doubting my ability to pull off the project. This trip really stretched that idea and my hope about these photos is to share snapshots of beauty I found in this country and translate what it was like meeting the Bangladeshi people in real life.

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Babu and Sabir, two brothers we met in Chila while visiting a group of porter boys. During our visit, Babu never let go go of Sabir’s hand and piggy-backed his younger brother from the bus station all the way to our shoot location.

To think that you can love someone you’ve met for 10 minutes and care for a nation of kids on the other side of the world is impossible. But I want to to share that the Bangladeshi people I met there were people just like you and me. They are warm, they are welcoming, they are funny. They love, they get frustrated over daily life and they love ice cream. They don’t view their living situations the way we do but work at it every day with dignity and love for those around them.

bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-8Tanya lost her mother to a remarriage nine years when her father was blinded during a terrible incident. Since then, Tanya works night shifts from at the shrimp factory to support her handicapped father and younger sister. Tanya lead our team in a terrific Bollywood dance during our visit and says she dreams of being a dancer one day.

I guess what I am trying to point out is that these trips have given me a capacity for compassion and a boldness to talk about issues that seem better kept in the dark.The decision to go on this trip was to challenge myself and take on a project I believed in; knowing that I had to be prepared to be honest about my experience and have the courage to speak out. Now that I know about these things, it seems quite foolish to stay silent.

bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-9Visiting girls at the shrimp processing depot. These girls spend long hours picking shrimp heads in this tiny dark space.bangladesh_world_vision_nochildforsale_bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-17Children we met at the villages in Khulna. These boys spend long hours in the water collecting shrimp larva that they sell to shrimp farms which is later exported. Everyday, these children face the dangers of water snakes, floods and malnutrition while making less than a dollar a day.

There is a deep imbalance about the way we live in developed worlds and the way people live in countries like Bangladesh. After putting a face to these stories and knowing these people that can use our support, I believe that we should all do our part in creating change.

A simple decision can really make a great impact in a child’s life. There are children working in terrible situations and getting paid half of what they deserve because they are young and in situations that make them very vulnerable. By refusing to support brands who are not transparent about their manufacturing process, you might be giving a child a chance to go to school, to make their own decision in marriage and a chance to have a better life.

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To learn more about the campaign I worked on, visit www.nochildforsale.ca and learn more on how you can take part in creating change.

Postcards from Laomei Green Reef, Taiwan

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Hello from Lao Mei, Taiwan.

It’s so nice to be back in Taiwan revisiting old nooks and discovering new places on this island that feels like home every time I am back. I think the beauty of going away is being able to come back and look at things with a new perspective and fresh lens. There are many memories I have from Asia and they grows richer with each trip.

I took the liberty of the Labour Day holiday and drove out to the North coast with friends. Taiwan is small yet I never cease to be amazed by the diverse landscapes and lush beauty the island seems to hold.

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Laomei Green Reef: A seaweed carpet formed by a type of algae that grows on the reef from April to May before the summer heat hits the coast. I have never seen such curious plants and might have taken a photo too many. taiwan_lao_mei_green_stones-12engagement_photography_taiwan_taipei
Chasing the light with Albert and Liz

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My squinty friend
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I have a few more days left here and it is always a fun battle between savouring moments like a local or taking photos like a shameless tourist. I leave feeling full from the warmth of the culture here and am excited to head back to Canada with a deeper understanding of my background.

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And this is where I leave you.

Three Things I learned from Travelling in India

munnar_tea_fields_india.jpgThe beautiful, misty green hills of Munnar, Kerala. If you listen closely, you can hear the click-clacking of a thousand tea scissors and the tiny buzz of chatter from the tea women in Mailalym.

I have always dreamed about India.

So a little over a month ago I booked tickets and found myself there.

I can’t put a finger on what it was that drew me there but never have I travelled so hard in my life and never have I had stranger experiences than the ones I have had there. I shall credit mom and dad for creating me with a large dose of curiosity, a love for rule breaking and a reckless lust for photogenic places.

As I sit home on my comfy couch editing photos and reflecting from my trip, here is a list of things that I learned from travelling in India.

1. Embrace the mystery/creativity
Life is mysterious. I left looking for answers but realized I didn’t need to know them after all. You don’t have the answers and you never will.  A friendly tip to people looking forward to visiting India: prepare to be surprised out of your socks. Mostly in unpleasant smelly ways. Haha kidding. I learned to leave room for creativity and surprise and I found that I have gained more in the process.

2. Contentment
I have found myself looking at things in a different way that I didn’t use to. A different way that I hope never goes away. I realized that I live a very blessed life and live in a wonderful, wonderful city. I love work with the ups and downs, people I have in my life and never have I cherished more the freedom to wear anything I want, take long hot showers(in a clean bathroom!) and eat ice cream from my freezer at night. Thank you India.

3. People
It sounds ridiculous to compare a person living in North America to someone living in the slums in India. But it’s true! At the end of the day, people are people. We need love, food, shelter, a job, a purpose, friends, encouragement, fun things etc. Those things don’t change and you can be a good or bad person anywhere in the world and still be a good or bad person. The world needs more good people so let’s all be good to each other.

Other than that, I rode on a 30 hour train (the longest I’ve been my entire life), met a bunch of amazing people I will not soon forget, obtained some scars from being in scary pottys, had the best Indian food of my life, cried and laughed during the weird and sentimental bits, got my first food poisoning, left bits of my heart in a Children’s Home to many tiny souls and left quite aware that I became a better person because of this trip.

If you are reading this and curious about travelling to India. I will say yes. Ten thousand times yes.

munnar_tea_fields_india_2To adventure xx

Allepey: The Backwaters of Kerala, India

india_kerala_allepey-2The calm waters of Allepey, Kerala. It’s so peaceful here.

Hello from Kerala, India!

Besides having a load of unexpected events happen each day or learning the concept of “Indian time”. It has been an amazing time and I am glad to say I’ve met and made a few lovely and warm locals that spent no time in helping us get around or tell us everything we wanted to know about their life in India.

After arriving in Allepey, we spent the day on a houseboat drifting around the canals with short stops between villages and the endless rice patties. 

india_kerala_allepey-5Plantains – a main part of the Indian diet. I’ve tried it fried in batter with cumin, folded into coconut omelettes, tucked into Thaili meals and eaten raw like a normal banana.

india_kerala_allepey-4The tata with the coolest eyebrows who offered to row us around on his tiny boat (200 rupees) and said yes to this photo after we politely declined.

india_kerala_allepey-6Our cook on the houseboat was a marvellous one. We had papped fried in coconut oil, vegetable stir fry with coconut, the best sambar daal, cucumber bean salad and multiple rounds of chai each day. 

It’s been very interesting observing the locals and most of the time I am just blown away by the similarities and differences we have. 

Everyday people work(fish, grow rice or row boats), eat curry, bathe and basically live their lives by the river. It is refreshing to experience such a simple way of life and it makes me very grateful for the conveniences I am so used to on a day to day basis.

india_kerala_allepey-3The rows and rows of endless rice patties. I am certain that most of India is covered in rice fields.

As we travel through Kerala, I feel like I’ve understood a little more of this mysterious country in it’s vastness, beauty, culture, the people and everything in between that leaves me hungering for more.

Next up, Varkala Beach, Munnar and Kochin!

A Hedgehog Story II

A few of you may know my current obsession with hedgehogs and you’ll be pleased to know that there’s more photos to follow.

After saying goodbye to a splendid month in Taiwan, I was presented with a gift at the airport… Amelia Hedgehog 2!

I’m really loving coming up with new concepts and themes for my projects so here is a little impromptu shoot I did featuring her travelling from Taipei-Beijing-Vancouver.

Hedgehogs after all, are born to travel.

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Amelia dreams of travel + on the plane

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Beijing airport and hedgehog spa

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Matching seats + Amelia in a bed of flowers

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Home at last and meeting the real Amelia Hedgehog

You can find follow Amelia’s adventures on Instagram and get prints here. I mean, we can all use a little more seriousness in our life.