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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cont., Suzhou by Robert Glenn Ketchum

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present by Robert Glenn Ketchum

During the reign of Mao (1949-1976), China was a closed country. China in the 1980’s was 80% rural, with no outside visitors, particularly from the West. When China opened to travelers, the Chinese government placed severe limitations on who was allowed to enter the country. These photographs are a continuation of other ongoing blog threads of the first glimpses into China in the mid-1980’s by world-renowned Conservation Photographer 
Robert Glenn Ketchum.




Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #67
Suzhou #67:   In the emergence of the New #China, the government was very careful to “manage” the national image; BOTH as seen from outside, AND as seen by the #Chinese themselves. Given the exhibit's expansive view of recent Chinese history, pictures that were politically objectionable to the new Chinese government were inevitable. There were numerous “historical” photos of #Mao, some of them very casual, such as him swimming with a group of friends, that drew no attention at all. However, other images, like this one from Robert Capa in 1938 were seen as moments and relationships the government preferred NOT to acknowledge in such a public exhibition.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #66
Suzhou #66:   The #exhibition drew a large audience in #HongKong and received considerable press. The book was selling well, worldwide. “CHINA: Fifty Years Inside the People’s Republic” attracted enormous international attention because it brought to life events, personalities, and a view of #Chinese daily life that had been virtually invisible to the outside world for a considerable length of time. Many #photographers in the show were #journalists, and we knew they would bear the brunt of the “edit” by the Minister of Culture before the work would be displayed at the new #Shanghai Museum. When the exhibit closed in Hong Kong, we were all curious to learn what had been censored. With nothing but pictures of boats and canals in now-historic #Suzhou, I had no concerns and never even considered being edited...
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #65
Suzhou #65:   The #photographers in the exhibit, “CHINA:  Fifty Years Inside the People’s Republic” were contacted by our publisher / exhibitor, @ApertureFdn, after the #HongKong and #Shanghai dates were announced. They wanted to notify all of us that some changes were beong made to the exhibit when it crossed from the #HongKongArtCenter, into mainland China for display at the final venue, the new #ShanghaiMuseuomofContemporaryArt . The Chinese Minister of Culture would review the show in Hong Kong, and “some” pictures were likely to be edited out. Considering the 350 images spanned some very politically volatile years, no one was surprised by this, and because of the breadth of work (everyone had 10 images included), no one expected to have ALL their images removed....
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #64
Suzhou #64:   As the huge @ApertureFdn exhibit, “CHINA: Fifty Years Inside the People’s Republic” circulated through Europe and North America, it was announced that the final two dates / locations would be the #HongKongArtsCentre, followed by the new #ShanghaiMuseuomofContemporaryArt which I mention in my blog about Shanghai, post #59. Both of these locations were significant exhibitors; Honk Kong Arts Centre being one of the more prestigious #museums in Asia at the time, and the new museum in Shanghai was hoping to be a similar star, rising with the New #China. Significantly, because the second venue was in #Shanghai, it meant the exhibit would cross into mainland China and become one of the first VERY public displays of this scale that viewed recent #Chinese history so openly and politically.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #63
Suzhou #63:   Much of old #Suzhou was a literal labyrinth of small, narrow, “neighborhood” canals that eventually fed into larger industrial ones. Many boats used gas-driven, single stroke engines that created a lot of pollution and noise. The New Suzhou intended to address the multiple problems involving these waterways of truly ancient history, by redesigning them for larger use (tourism), and by routing the industrial traffic to the outer canals to minimize pollution and noise. The more I saw of these changes, the more I began to realize how wonderful it was that #Aperture had selected 10 of my Suzhou canal images for the CHINA exhibit, because they would be unique records of something that would be nearly gone by the time the show arrived in China. I was sure everyone would enjoy my images as a window to their amazing past.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #62
Suzhou #62:   The canals were beehives of activity when boats were supplying the materials for neighborhood renovation and reconstructions.  Sometimes, however, after a new neighborhood rose, the canal not only fell silent; it disappeared, either remodeled, or built over entirely. The new city plan being put into place was DEMATERIALIZING most of the historical past, all while attempting to do so WITHOUT losing the essence of the city of #Suzhou. The city was NOT eliminating canals, but rather changing the overall design plan of them so they would be more "scenic" as the New Suzhou was rising around them. Meanwhile and elsewhere, the huge exhibit, "CHINA: FIFTY YEARS INSIDE THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC", was circulating in North America. And the second, matching exhibit @ApertureFdn had created began to circulate in Europe and Asia,.  Both exhibits met with rave reviews, opening at such institutions as the Manchester City Art Galleries & Asia House (UK) (@mcrartgallery), and the Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes di Napoli in Italy.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #61
Suzhou #61:   One of the things I have come to respect is the #Chinese capacity to endure. In spite of disappearing neighborhoods and rising apartment buildings everywhere, those that the modernization had not yet reached carried-on in their daily lives, often welcoming the change and looking forward to it while completely engulfed in the turmoil of construction. Some traditional ways change less quickly, though, if ever. While wandering along a canal bank, I encountered this table of freshly made noodles drying in the sun behind a home that was selling food on the street in front of the house.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #60
Suzhou #60:   In the old Suzhou neighborhoods that I explored frequently on my visits, change was creeping in block-by-block. Once a canal-side industrial site was established, the surrounding homes / compounds began to vanish. In their place, gleaming, new multi-story apartments rose. They had heat, running water, electricity, and in some cases solar glass. There was no doubt they were a housing necessity for the New #China, yet a jarring visual contrast where they popped up.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #59
Suzhou #59:   It was seldom that any of the construction workers or boatmen actually spoke to me, most often our exchanges were just gestural, Nonetheless, many #Chinese had learned some #English by listening to the radio.  It was pretty entertaining when one day at the industrial dock, these three approached me and wanted to start a conversation. These were definitely NOT construction workers, rather they were fashionably dressed young men out walking around, and my presence made them curious. They asked if I was a spy, or working with the police, but when I explained I was just documenting the changes facing Suzhou, they thought it "interesting".  They DID NOT BELIEVE, however, that it would change as dramatically as I suggested to them that it might. I would love to talk with them again, today, and see if they still feel that way.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #58
Suzhou #58:   In 1988, this neighborhood was beginning its modernizing process, and the canal serving it was bustling, so I returned frequently to observe and #photograph it. As I was VERY obvious, being laden with #cameras, and being the only white person most of them had ever seen wandering their streets, some of the boatmen and the workers began to recognize me, and would nod when they saw me approach. It was great for me that they were getting “used” to my presence, because they would just continue their work, and let me shoot without staring at me like I was an alien being in their midst!
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #57
Suzhou #57:   I learned that the long-term planning for the city of #Suzhou was to deindustrialize it, moving heavy industry sites outside of the city center. Although it seemed an impossible task, they would also reengineer a lot of the canals to add “scenic beauty” to the New Suzhou. In the future, colorfully painted “dragon boats” shuttling tourists would completely replace the working boats seen in this blog. One of the first big industrial sites to be moved was a coal and construction materials loading dock complex not far from my hotel. It was pretty gritty HOWEVER an amazing place to hangout, and just watch all the activity.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #56
Suzhou #56:   The "CHINA: 50 Years" #book / #exhibit was a huge project. Coordinating that many #artists and corresponding prints, as well as creating a publication took a considerable amount of time. In the interim, I was traveling back and forth to #China 2-3 times a year, and always adding new #images to my #photographic library on each visit. I started following construction announcements in the English language newspapers provided by the hotels, and I began to look for locations that were as yet untouched, but slated to be altered or removed entirely. With so much construction going on ALL OVER the city, the canals were bustling. Boats of every description carried massive loads of materials to impromptu industrial sites that would just “pop-up” when demolition and rebuilding began in a new neighborhood.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #55
Suzhou #55:   I was very excited to have my work included in Aperture Foundation's (@ApertureFdn)  #exhibit. I agreed with the #curatorial choice of just concentrating on the work I had done around #Suzhou, because I did spend most of my time there and knew it with some intimacy. I loved the canals, boats, old community compounds, and pathways, and the sense they gave me of the historical past. I ALSO KNEW that they would eventually disappear so I thought having them included in the exhibit would be a welcome addition to the show. By the time the exhibit would arrive at #Chinese venues, much of Suzhou would be transformed, and there would be children that never knew it looked like this. Through these images I hoped they would “discover” the past and reflect on their “ancient” history dating back to Marco Polo, and well before.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #54
Suzhou #54:   Aperture Foundation (@ApertureFdn) intended this to be a MAJOR #exhibit; not only some 300+ images displayed, but also prestigious national and international institutions to be displayed in. The book release and exhibit opening were timed to coincide with the 50-year “anniversary" of the establishing of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), with the first venue being the Asia Society (@AsiaSocietyNY) in New York on October 7, 1999. The show blew-up with great reviews and large attendance, which set the stage for ever-increasing audiences as the exhibit toured North America. The other venues included:  the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada (@ROMToronto); the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, California (@BAMPFA); the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, Vancouver, BC (@CCCVan); the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts (@ArtsMia); the Lowe Art Museum, at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida (@LoweArtMuseum); the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Smithsonian's museums of Asian Art, Washington, DC (@FreerSackler). With the North American tour ongoing and growing, the international demand for the exhibit caused Aperture to create an entire second exhibit set. EVEN CHINA INTENDED TO PUT THE EXHIBITION ON DISPLAY!
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #53
Suzhou #53:   In posts #45-47, I bring up my “intent” with these images of China because in 1999, my “intent” -- which seemed purely observational to me -- became something else. #Aperture (@ApertureFdn), a NY publishing house that had previously done several of my books, planned to do a comprehensive visual survey of China spanning the 50-years since the creation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Aperture was organizing and publishing a book, and an international traveling exhibition featuring 33 photographer.  Each would be allowed 10 images, obviously quite a large display of work. Curated to have approximately half the chosen photographers be Chinese, and the others, those of us lucky enough to have visited China. The amazing images covered a great breadth of subjects, from political portraiture and journalism, to lifestyle and landscape. I offered the entire range of imagery I had from city streets to a trek on Mt. #Huangshan.  The editors, however, were particularly drawn to my pictures from the backstreets and canals of #Suzhou, where I was spending the most amount of time because I was working on my embroideries.
ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #52
Suzhou #52:   Change consumed all. Back at the Gusu Guest House my private garden was not so private anymore. In fact, it ceased to exist entirely! Ultimately it would become a much larger and more luxurious, “Hong-Kong” style “garden hotel" consuming the Gusu as well, yet in the meantime the park looked very sad. The morning they took the largest of the #bonsais, I finally had to ask if they were being destroyed, and I was assured they were just being transplanted into larger, more beautiful pots and they would become display pieces of great value in the lobbies of the new destination hotels and corporate offices. Oh well, they were mine for awhile. I hope others enjoyed them as much as I did.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, February 5, 2015
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #51
Suzhou #51:   Things were changing so fast that sometimes they changed right before my eyes, even while I was just sitting there watching! This post is a good example. Formerly the center of a small community of homes (that have since been torn down), this new pedestrian “plaza” is considerably nicer than the muddy path leading into it from the remaining homes. It is such a community improvement, that no one waited until it was finished; here you can see people walking on it as soon as construction began! Being constructed entirely by hand, it only took a few days to create, even with “social” breaks to talk to others passing by. In this case, I'm NOT the only observer. Check out where the work is being done:  the two guys in sweaters are “observing” and “offering advice.”
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, January 29, 2015
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #50
Suzhou #50:   The accelerating pace of #redevelopment rippled across #Suzhou. Blocks were being transformed; not just one house at a time. Massive amounts of construction / destruction were ongoing. To do this took lots of material, and also required a lot of rubble be removed, so the streets and #canals were busier than I had ever seen them. Riding my bike was becoming more risky, as traffic was increasing, and much of it was large trucks. However I still found refuge from the chaos off the streets, and in the back canals, where I often would just sit and watch all the activity float by.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, January 22, 2015
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #49
Suzhou #49:   As I was working on many different #embroideries simultaneously at the institute, my visits to #Suzhou in the '80's and early '90's were sometimes close together. Even so, the pace of change was rather dramatic. Because I spent considerable time walking around the canal and community paths, I "knew" Suzhou reasonably well. During my return trips, my walks would bring me to neighborhoods with which I was familiar from previous visits, and indeed, the most recent visit just moths before, and they would be ENTIRELY gone! Sometimes even the canal was altered or had even disappeared. It was breathtaking to me. Certainly I had seen demolition and reconstruction in the U.S., yet NEVER at the scale and scope of this. It made me realize that every moment I was on the street with my #camera, I was a privileged witness to an epic transformation.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, January 15, 2015
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #48
Suzhou #48:   These early days in China were an amazing grace for me. As I was often in #Suzhou for weeks at a time, I had a good deal of free time to wander. With no restrictions, I simply made my own personal photographic record of the street, and never raised any #Chinese concerns about “journalistic” intent. Each visit was an awakening, as the changes were VERY obvious to me and it drove me to record whatever was left before it was lost. In this shot we see a piece of an historic gate in an ancient wall. I am happy to say much of this is still in place as an historical site today. The traffic in the street has changed a bit, however (LOL)!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, January 8, 2015
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #47
Suzhou #47:   There is no doubt that ALL of my visits to #China were well tracked by both my hosts and the government. Everyone was aware that I had #cameras and was seen riding around on bicycles taking pictures. HOWEVER, because I was NOT a professional #journalist, China apparently felt no reason to control or stop me. I was a distinguished #American #artist in a high-visibility exchange program and I just liked to take a lot of pictures like any other #tourist. I simply had a bit more free-reign and I visited for longer stays. Because I never used the work commercially, I was blessed that my profile remained low and I was allowed to shoot everywhere without restrictions. Here is a "lunch-break."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, January 1, 2015
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #46
Suzhou #46:  My #blog discussion has turned to the intent and “use” of this work because some of these images eventually became part of an #Aperture book and international traveling exhibition which generated some controversy. At the heart of that controversy are two #cultures with very different ideas about how to “shape” generations-to-come as they are growing up. Americans are often heard to say, “If you don’t know history, then you are condemned to repeat it.” The Chinese have a different view on that, and amazingly found my pictures – these that I have been showing you – “threatening.”
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, December 25, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #45
Suzhou #45:  My “intent” with these images is to illustrate that when I took them I thought they were nothing more than visual documents that might be historically interesting at some point. I was not known for street-style journalism in the US.  I was a landscape photographer. And so these images I was making in China on the street were ignored. As I had no intention of trying to use these images some way in the press, I kept them to myself until now. They serve to remind me of what I witnessed on my amazing visits to China -- and in the locations visited year-after-year -- about how much incredible change I have witnessed.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, December 18, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #44
Suzhou #44:  In the mid-1980's things in #China changed quickly; and things disappeared quickly. If I knew then what I know now, I would have walked around EVERY minute of EVERY day and just shot thousands and thousands of #pictures! Even so, I did go out every day and shoot, just wandering around. At the time, I didn't see these images as a critique of quality-of-life; nor did I intend them to be anything other than documents of daily existence. Having previously traveled to rural #India, #Thailand, and the #Philippines, I didn't view these moments in China as being significantly different. This was a huge country with a stagnant economy, and people were simply trying to survive as best they could with what they had. At this moment in time, the #Chinese were not very industrialized, nor were they really part of the larger world economy. Those forces would begin to shift things rapidly from the world playing out here before my lens.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, December 11, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #43
Suzhou #43:  To my eye, #Japanese #bonsai shapes are formally structured by the cultivator, using wire and braces, as well as selective clipping. #Chinese bonsai seldom uses supportive material and tends to be more "organic," following the form "suggested by the plant." Many of these especially knarled trunks would have taken hundreds of years to create by clipping/growth/clipping alone, but the Chinese create these by working from live tap roots of mature trees. They cut off and stimulate the live tap roots to regenerate new branch growth from the root-turned-trunk. The effect is very sculptural and dramatic. As this morning was early #Spring and the trees had not yet leafed-out, the sculptural quality of the "trunks" was especially apparent in this grouping along the garden path that followed the shore of the lake.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, December 4, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #42
Suzhou #42:  To my delight, I discovered another aspect of staying at the #Gusu Hotel (besides the food) was access to a “discarded” park behind the hotel. I say, “discarded,” because it had clearly been designed as a park / garden, however it was definitely not maintained and NO ONE ELSE was ever in it when I would go walking there. The morning of my discovery, a dense canal #fog had formed over the city and it was my day-off working at the institute, so I grabbed my cameras and went out to wander in the 'backyard" of the hotel. I love #bonsai, so it was a great moment to discover this large bonsai #nursery and #greenhouse with hundreds of bonsai rather casually strewn around.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, November 27, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #41
Suzhou #41:  In my early visits to #Suzhou there were really only two hotels available to me. Most foreign visitors stayed at the Suzhou Hotel. Many #Chinese visitors stayed at the #Gusu, shown here. Having spent several visits at the Suzhou Hotel, I had grown tired of their tourist-adjusted restaurant food.  My hosts were uncomfortable with me buying random food “on-the-street,” so on one late spring visit I asked if I could stay at the Gusu. When it is really cold, I find a traditional Chinese breakfast particularly warming, and although I was warned few in the hotel/restaurant might speak English, my hosts did agree that my appreciation of more traditional Chinese meals might be better served here.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, November 20, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #40
Suzhou #40:  In my earlier posts #30 & #31, I commented on the textures of the #historical buildings and homes.  Those comments are perfectly exemplified here:  a splurge of painted color on the house; the random form and tones of the scavenged discarded brick/rock wall; and, a garden of not only pots, but of vines and small trees that have woven their roots into the unmortared crevices.  All glowing radiantly here after a rain, like some kind of living, breathing painting.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, November 13, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #39
Suzhou #39:  For all of the attention paid the expansive, historical #gardens of the wealthy upper-class and administrators in #Suzhou, I found as much visual interest in gardens that had virtually NO #Taihu rocks, nor were they expansive. Some of the most engaging gardens I found were along the side-canals and bike paths. They were NOT the gardens of “Humble Administrators,” they were the gardens of humble people, still very much trying to stay connected to the land. In the New Suzhou, the grand gardens have been preserved, but I am afraid there are few of the “humble” gardens left. Look at the beautiful row of small bonsai pots on the left-side garden bench.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, November 6, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #38
Suzhou #38:  This particular #Taihu rock arrangement was in the historical #Suzhou #garden called, Master-Of-Nets. Designed “to have great beauty in all seasons,” this is early spring.  In the previous post, you are seeing the same spot in the heat and humid drizzle of mid-summer. A common feature, even on a small-scale such as a bonsai arrangement, these aggregated rocks where everywhere. I took particular note of them as an artist in the #UCLA - China Exchange Program exploring textile #embroidery based on my photography. The way I saw “rocks” represented in traditional Chinese art forms always reflected this Taihu rock ideal. Within the embroidery work I was now doing, I wanted to change that. If you are interested to know what I / we did, follow this blog
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, October 30, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #37
Suzhou #37:  I would not begin to presume to suggest I am knowledgeable about all the subtle details of a Chinese garden.  Certain elements, however, are ALWAYS included:  most with space enough had ponds, bridges, and small viewing pavilions; there were also established plantings, often of spectacular floral trees; and within the greater garden, sculptural rocks were specifically situated. They were called #LakeTaihu rocks as though they had been quarried from there, but these were creations of many rocks cemented together and did not come from Lake Taihu. Nonetheless, artistically they were considered by the garden builders to be the “perfect” symbolic rock. I tell you this because it will be relevant to the embroidery work I am doing (Click here to read about my embroideries.).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, October 23, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #36
Suzhou #36:  A phrase often used in reference to old #Suzhou was the Chinese saying, “Above there is heaven and below there is #Hangzhou and Suzhou.” This was said because of their beauty. Hangzhou has #WestLake and the scenic surrounding mountains, Suzhou has the canals AND many, many elaborate gardens. Administrators and families of wealth would come to Suzhou for the hot months of summer.  They built numerous elegant private compounds, many of which have been historically preserved to this day. Inevitably my hosts at the #embroidery institute where I was working took me to see many of them. Others I sought-out while wandering. As it turned out, these visits actually informed and inspired some of the ideas later employed in our embroidery work. (See: My "Silk Road - Embroideries" blog for more about that work.)
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, October 16, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #35
Suzhou #35: This guy was pretty startled to find me wandering around as well. I took this shot on a bike ride and love the abstract, surreal nature of the setting. Looking carefully you can see family style in the clothing, night-pots airing while anchoring the bamboo poles.  And apparently this house commands a sizeable “courtyard”,  allowing them considerable space to air laundry next to the path. I had stopped to ponder all of this as the bicyclist appeared. He went by very quickly, but the look on his face was priceless! As if he could not imagine what he had just seen: a funny looking, long-haired, white person in a fuzzy jacket with a bunch of cameras, ON A BICYCLE, in the middle of his neighborhood, OMG!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, October 9, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #34
Suzhou #34: One of my favorite “laundry” encounters occurred on a still-cool day in early spring when I discovered these women while roaming on random pathways through the #hutongs. They were as much warming themselves up in the sunshine as drying their laundry out, but they were definitely engaged in “discussions.” At first I was QUITE a surprise to them, especially the 3 older women, but the one on the red sweater actually spoke some English, so she started asking questions about my camera and my presence, and once that was resolved, EVERYBODY was curious about something, so she became a willing translator for nearly a ½-hour. They were still pretty amazed a Westerner showed up!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzho

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Thursday, October 2, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #33
Suzhou #33:  Those first bright, dry, and warming days of spring were generally few and far between as spring also brought rain.  So when the sun was out, the competition for hanging space to air out household laundry and textiles was often fierce. Those with less personal property to "hang" on, often appropriated the street using chairs, tables -- and in this case -- a canal bridge. Look carefully beyond the bridge, out hanging over the canal... someone else has their clothes strung out on bamboo poles. Personally I'm amazed the statue was spared! It is indeed a lovely day, as the mural suggests.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, September 25, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #32
Suzhou #32: The New #Suzhou is also a more private Suzhou in the sense that people are IN their nice new homes, rather than out on the street in front of them. In old Suzhou, the stone and brick houses were cold and dark in the winter, and hot, humid, and close in the summer, so people came out and sat on the sidewalk, talked to each other, and exchanged gossip; it was an important part of social life. In springtime, in particular, there was always a complete cleaning and airing of the home and its textiles as soon as a warm, clear day dawned. The older, more "practiced" women had amazing, intertwined bamboo pole systems they would haul out, designed to use every angle and corner of their home to get the most hanging space.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, September 18, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #31
Suzhou #31: This is another of those "textural" subjects that I miss. Again, the home across the canal was constructed from stones likely salvaged from different locations, so there is no uniform size or color, and the wall reads like an #architectural jigsaw puzzle. Within this frame, the house is complimented by the spring #flora display making it all the more appealing, BUT the reality is in the lower left corner. Between the greenery and the house is a small back-canal with some of THE most disgusting "water" you could imagine. This is one of those textures of the old China that has been eliminated that I DO NOT lament, nor does anyone else.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, September 11, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #30
Suzhou #30: The transformation of #Suzhou would change another aspect of the ancient city I had come to have special appreciation for; the textures of everyday life. There is a lot of what I am talking about in this picture. Not only is this working barge predictably gritty, but look at the layers in the homes. Many of the old Suzhou homes were comprised of scavenged rock, brick, and tile, often randomly stacked which gave color to the otherwise grey or white walls that were plastered. Even the plastered walls showed their layers of time, stained by dripping water and mold. The gleaming blue and white apartment housing that has replaced these ancient homes is clearly more comfortable to live in, and with far better heat, water, and electric but the facades of the New Suzhou lack the "character" of the old city.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, September 4, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #29
Suzhou #29: As if being in #China in 1985 wasn't already a "like-going-to-another-world" experience! While I stood observing these guys engaged in the laborious task of rebuilding one of Suzhou's canals, I suddenly had a more startling "time-view" of the scene unfolding in front of me. With no industrial equipment, and all of this being done by hand, I had an obvious sense of looking back in time watching them work in such a manual way.  BUT then I had a much farther look back in time than I expected when I considered these workers were digging up a canal system that was in place before #MarcoPolo arrived IN THE 13TH CENTURY!!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, August 28, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #28
Suzhou #28: It wasn't only the boats that were doing the heavy lifting. #Suzhou was eager to forge ahead into the New #China, especially to have better #water quality in the canals and a better system of sewage and water delivery in the homes. In the beginning, however, they did not yet have enough heavy industrial equipment to meet all the demands of reconstruction, so much of the work was done by VERY physical manual labor. This crew is working on digging out a canal and removing the toxic bottom mud. The density of this mud makes it incredibly heavy.  As you can see, it takes two people to carry one yoke. It took weeks, and thousands of trips down into and back up out of the canal to complete the work. How about that twist-tie / bamboo pole bridge that supported all that weight and traffic... simply amazing!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, August 21, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #27
Suzhou #27: In the previous post, I made reference to the boats often being "impossibly overloaded." Check this guy out! Seriously - can you even SEE the actual boat!?! Thus laden with goods and being driven by such small engines, these barges were very slow to respond when maneuvering, and yet I NEVER saw anyone do more than barely bump one-another. As busy as the industrial #canals were, there was a beautiful ballet going on in which hundreds of boats navigated by, and around each other through traffic.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, August 14, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #26
Suzhou #26: Here is the same view as my last post on a day with less fog. This vantage point is one of my favorites because it is near the center of the city and yet VERY industrial. At the time, it was the churning hub of goods that was building the New China. THOUSANDS of these boats filled the canals of Suzhou EVERYDAY, and from here I got a good sense of the scale of what was going on. All of these boats also ran on gas engines that were adding significantly to the haze of smog. When #Suzhou was re-engineered, this industrial traffic was re-routed to "outer" canals.  The canals within the city were redeveloped for their beauty and tourist attraction. I am happy to say the new canals are cleaner and less gritty, undoubtedly making the city more attractive.  Often, however, when I'm standing on a bridge watching, I miss the busy-ness of this time, and the sound of the chugging single stroke engines filing by with their impossibly overloaded decks... headed into the future.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, August 7, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #25
Suzhou #25: As I could see things changing SO much with each visit, my #photography of the streets and canals in #Suzhou became less casual and more driven to be 'witness'. On any given visit, most of my time was spent with my colleagues at the #embroidery institute, so the days that I could walk around were limited, and I began to treat the opportunity much like my #landscape photography work; you go out and shoot regardless of the conditions... s%#t happens! Many of my best images have been taken on the "worst" days.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #24
Suzhou #24: The New #Suzhou would have re-engineered canals, cleaner water, and the "working" boats would be replaced by tourist-filled "dragon boats". For the moment, however, I am drinking-in a warm, spring evening as people walk and bicycle through their neighborhood pathways, and a small work boat quietly paddles down a side canal. There was a kind of quietude in these moments that has been lost in the bustle of the newer, more prosperous city.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, July 24, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #23
Suzhou #23:  #Suzhou already had a good large university and as the New #China evolved, Suzhou would enter International cooperation agreements to build further schools, expansive new vertical office space, large planned housing communities, and some very high-end ones as well, usually built surrounding golf courses or lakes. Initially the pace of the work was relatively slow. It started at the core of the city and moved out along some of the principle roads and canals. I found myself wandering farther on my visits to still find the "paths-less-taken." Because I could view my work between visits, I became especially attentive to the richness of detail created by the accumulation of time. In the shiny new Suzhou, the "clutter" of history would be lost, and with every successive visit I would discover something "I saw everyday" -- and with which I had become familiar -- had disappeared.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, July 17, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #22
Suzhou #22: It was clear to me that #Shanghai was changing and there would be even bigger changes yet to come, but I expected that of such a signature metropolis and I knew its history would never "disappear" completely. There would always be layers of it somewhere within the gleaming modernism. #Suzhou, on the other hand, was far more rural when I arrived, so as it began to change, the changes were more dramatic and pronounced. Suzhou was destined to become a VERY large and modern city as well, and the ENTIRETY of ancient Suzhou, except for a few select buildings and gardens, would be replaced and beautifully rebuilt, canals and all. It struck me, though, that I was privileged to view and record things that would be wiped completely away, and so I turned my attention to those places that I thought would be first to be transformed.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, July 10, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #21
Suzhou #21:  As #Suzhou evolved into the New #China, the old houses and canals were being torn down, and one day in a conversation at the #embroidery institute, I commented that it saddened me to see the city loosing its historical - even ancient - veneer. I noted, however, I was immediately challenged by a uniform response from all present, "Would you really want us to live like this to fulfill your nostalgia?" Of course, the answer was no because my many walks made it clear just how difficult life was. Most homes had no heating. Most had no bathrooms. Trash and sewage floated in many canals and they all stank, randomly emitting burps of methane that also brought up a tar-like goo that floated on the surface. Most homes had no running water, so here you see a morning ritual repeated all over the city, the dishes and the laundry are being washed in the canal.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, July 3, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #20
Suzhou #20: One afternoon following rainy weather, I sat in some fleeting sunlight on a bench next to one of the more rural #canals. The day was warm, and now after the rain, it was becoming increasingly humid. To keep the house from being heated further by cooking, most homes had kitchens in an open courtyard, or in this case, at the back, along the canal. As soon as the rain stopped, activity increased everywhere as people came out of their homes into the open air for some relief. Across the canal from my bench, an elderly couple emerged from their house to begin the midday meal. As small as their parcel is, they have an herb garden, and he is picking things from it for her to put the meal.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, June 26, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #19
Suzhou #19: In these quieter, smaller neighborhoods of #Suzhou, I would constantly encounter unfolding daily events often without my presence even being noticed. These "lesser" #canals of the city were the equivalent of alleys in homes in North America. We often build houses that face the street, but have an alley access behind. In Suzhou, that "alley" was a #canal, and most homes had small gardens and/or terraces on the canal where they used canal #water to irrigate and do their wash. Often vendors, or recycling collectors, would come through hailing residents that were in their yards, trying to do a little business. On this particular, foggy spring morning, all I could hear was the quiet swish of the oar, and creak of the boat which slowly disappeared into the mist... Marco? Polo?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, June 19, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #18
Suzhou #18: Out of the commercial mainstream, on my bicycle I navigated and explored one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL of ancient #Chinese cities before it was transformed. For me, this was a privilege. #Photography is a kind of voyeurism, and by adventuring on bike and foot, I was allowed an intimate view of a place and #culture whose existence stretched back thousands of years of survival, and for a brief flash I was being allowed to witness it in its "historic" state, before it rushed forward into the exhilaration of the New #China. Times were hard and conditions were difficult, but for me these #pictures are not a critique, but rather an visual celebration of an "honest," lyrical view of a world no longer there in ANY form (well, except maybe the hanging laundry, LOL).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, June 12, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #17
Suzhou #17: So with my hotel rental bike I was off, into the maze of streets and paths throughout #Suzhou. Streets were always busy and when riding in the stream of cyclists it was a bit like driving a car, you needed to be paying attention ALL of the time. On the sidepaths and along the canals, however, I would often be the only person there. I loved the freedom of my mobility. I LOVED the cool breeze flowing around me when I rode. MOST OF ALL, I loved the amazing places I would end up... having absolutely NO idea where I was!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, June 5, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #16
Suzhou #16: Bicycles were everywhere in #Suzhou and in the heat of the summer, the idea of being able to move around the city more widely without a car, AND that by riding there would be some cooling airflow around my body, was really appealing. SO, I mentioned it to my host, Zhang Meifang, Director of the #SuzhouEmbroideryResearchInstitute (SERI), and found here COMPLETELY opposed to the idea, assuring me that I could not ride "Chinese" style and that I would be killed. Unfortunately for her, my hotel had no such concerns and although a little skeptical about my skills, they were happy to rent me a bike! At this time I was among the first foreigners in #China for any extended period and certainly the ONLY one that was regularly out riding around in the bicycle stream.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 29, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #15
Suzhou #15: For me, this image of #Suzhou from 1986 really says it all. Most aspects of this #picture have now disappeared completely. The narrow streets were spectacularly lined with carefully groomed trees that provided shade relief in the heat of the summer. SMALL shops ran along either side of these streets and often very polluted canals were behind the shops. Cars and/or trucks were infrequent, and bicycles were EVERYWHERE. In my first few visits to Suzhou, I was happy to walk, but as I began to realize the size of the city and grow more comfortable with exploring it, the bicycle seemed like an increasingly good idea.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 22, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #14
Suzhou #14: As large a city as #Suzhou already was in 1985, it had noticeably few cars. I was told by my hosts there were 650,000 bicycles and only about 1,000 automobiles, the majority of which were light industrial trucks. The sizable market streets were supplied entirely by pedal power and it was often on the market streets that I saw numerous unique bike modifications intended to contain and support the significant loads being carried. Hey Suzhou! What do you think that bike-to-car ratio is today?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 15, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #13
Suzhou #13: More often than not, it was the women that engaged me in conversation. The men would sit, listening amusedly and smoking their cigarettes. I was walking with one of my translators at this particular moment, and she was actually buying food, so there is quite a conversation going on between her and this young vendor about who I am, why I am there... and of course, do I eat the food! I eat most everything, and LOVE #Chinese food so when this girl heard that, she immediately offered some her best "uniquely local" produce she hoped I would try. It was a cool spring day on this market street, as you can see by the layers of clothing everyone has on to stay warm.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 8, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #12
Suzhou #12: Another aspect of the market streets of #Suzhou that I enjoyed was seeing an astounding variety of things, especially vegetables, that I had never seen before. I also found that, like many rural communities, strangers were as interesting to them as they were to me so, language barrier or not, everyone was quite friendly and proudly wanted to show off their goods. Within a group like this, someone surely spoke a bit of English, so I could ask questions and have what was generally an amusing exchange. The #Chinese were ALWAYS interested in my #cameras, so they had questions for me as well. On a side note, ALL the men are smoking cigarettes - an extensive habit I saw in my early visits that is slowly changing.
Photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, May 1, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #11
Suzhou #11: As we had previously seen in #Zhaoquing, #Suzhou's proximity to the rural, farm-based countryside caused the markets to always be bustling. With a greater population however, #Suzhou did not have one or two central markets but rather long market streets with hundreds of vendors. Suzhou also had little car traffic and when you were in a car, the crowds of people and bicycles in the street made traffic very slow, so I always enjoyed walking whenever I was "allowed," and I would often stroll these market streets taking pictures and listening to the vendors and the buyers chat each other up. Regularly I would be approached by someone wanting to speak #English with me. You don't see too many white guys with ponytails in this picture, so you can believe my daily adventures were interesting!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #10
Suzhou #10: As tough as life may look in some of these #photographs, the "benefits" of living in #Suzhou was that the #weather was relatively pleasant and the surrounding rural #farms and fields meant that there was quite a lot of available #food, and a reasonably good variety of it. Certainly not all #Chinese were surrounded by such a beautiful, tropical #environment. Here on the road between Suzhou and #DongShan, rice paddies, row crops, fish ponds, and canals entwine as they cross the #landscape, and are alive with farmers, fishermen, and an occasional sailing junk carrying goods. The road I was on was dirt at the time - it is now a 4-lane highway surrounded by luxury homes, golf courses and resort hotels.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #9
Suzhou #9: Of course, to work this hard, you had to eat, so mealtime was a community event for those that lived on their boats. As midday approached, women on the boats would begin to prepare food that they bought in the market that morning and inevitably there was quite a lot of social chatter between them. Soon the scent of gas fumes and diesel would give way to aromas of boiling vegetables and wok-fried fish. On cue, groups of men, very tired and many very dirty, would begin to show up, greeting each of the women in turn, until arriving at there own boat, where they would settle in for some nourishment and a brief rest.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #8
Suzhou #8: Ultimately the ever enlarging side canals of #Suzhou connected to #TheGrandCanal, a VERY busy, very industrial thoroughfare of boat traffic. Historically in #China, #Hangzhou and Suzhou were considered "garden" cities, resort-like destinations of great beauty that one traveled to, especially to escape the heat of summer. It has been said that The Grand Canal was built to transport the emperor from #Beijing to Suzhou in comfort because the immense road journey was too uncomfortable.  However in reality The Grand Canal was constructed during several different eras and rulers, and it was used primarily to divert water and transport goods and troops. Construction was started in the 6th Century B.C. and continued on various sections through 13th. At more than 1200-miles long, The Grand Canal is the longest canal ever built and, along with #TheGreatWall, one of the greatest human construction projects ever undertaken.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, April 3, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #7
Suzhou #7: Ultimately the ever enlarging side canals of #Suzhou connected to #TheGrandCanal, a VERY busy, very industrial thoroughfare of boat traffic. Historically in #China, #Hangzhou and Suzhou were considered "garden" cities, resort-like destinations of great beauty that one traveled to, especially to escape the heat of summer. It has been said that The Grand Canal was built to transport the emperor from #Beijing to Suzhou in comfort because the immense road journey was too uncomfortable.  However in reality The Grand Canal was constructed during several different eras and rulers, and it was used primarily to divert water and transport goods and troops. Construction was started in the 6th Century B.C. and continued on various sections through 13th. At more than 1200-miles long, The Grand Canal is the longest canal ever built and, along with #TheGreatWall, one of the greatest human construction projects ever undertaken.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #6
Suzhou #6: Once you left the quieter inner-city and supporting canals, the #waterways grew broader and busier. As #Suzhou is close to the #ocean and the #canals are part of a large #river complex, these corridors were the super-highways of #commerce. As in #Shanghai, I found the waterfront of Suzhou a fascinating place to watch and feel the pulse of #Chinese life. Given the density of boat traffic on some days it was always interesting to witness the "ballet" of them moving by and around each other without much incident ...and completely without any regulatory oversight.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #5
Suzhou #5: In these neighborhoods there were no cars. They were quiet, modestly maintained, and showing the wear of many people over many years. The canal water was shockingly polluted and regularly gave off large and smelly bursts of methane gas. Litter was everywhere, especially in the water ...and yet, it was all strangely beautiful. Residents seemed to tolerate the presence of my #camera and me, and some even approached to speak #English. The primary "din" of traffic along these walks was the tinkle of bicycle bells as the rider passed by you.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #4
Suzhou #4: Once outside of the central commercial areas which were relatively small, the city of #Suzhou spread out into a maize of paths and canals. Many canals were paralleled by paths that connected to other neighborhoods by bridge, so I spent a good deal of time just wandering along them randomly, never really knowing where I was going - simply enjoying the experience OF BEING THERE! Residential neighborhoods that were the least noisy and polluted were away from the industrial waterways, often having very narrow canals that larger boats could not navigate. All these homes would have street or path access in front, but they all also have canal-side entrances and terraces where owners wash, do laundry and have small gardens.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, March 6, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #3
Suzhou #3: #Suzhou was not as large as #Shanghai, but it was still a large city by any description. Surprisingly to me, and partially because of all the canals and waterways, it had remained very rural and attached to its rural farm community. Within the greater #Chinese culture, Suzhou was famous for those picturesque canals, as well as historic private gardens, unparalleled #embroidery, AND beautiful farm "girls." Although transformed now, as you will amply see later in this blog as it unfolds, Suzhou in 1985-86 was surprisingly "country" and when walking or driving around, sometimes the difference between "the city" and "the farms" was just a matter of a few blocks.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, February 27, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #2
Suzhou #2: Carey and I were on an early morning train from #Shanghai to #Suzhou where we would meet for the 1st time with administrators of the #SuzhouEmbroideryResearchInstitute (#SERI) in hopes of convincing them to work with me and create silk #embroidered screens and panels based on my #photographic imagery (if you would like to know more about this, please follow my blog: SILK ROAD). The trip to Suzhou would take slightly less than 3-hours and even as early as it was, it was already hot with stifling humidity. The movement of the train with all the windows down barely provided any relief. Urban Shanghai quickly gave way to the rural farmlands that fed it, and for some time we just rolled past an endless array of fields and ponds that became part of a labyrinth of canals and waterways the closer we got to Suzhou. Then, the outskirts of a city began encroaching once again. We would soon arrive in Marco Polo's "home-away-from-home."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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Thursday, February 20, 2014
Welcome to Suzhou, 1985 - to the present, #1
Suzhou #1: For those of you who have been following my China blog and/or my Silk Road blog, you know that I went into China in 1985 to collaborate with the #SuzhouEmbroideryResearchInstitute (SERI) in an attempt to render my #photographs in a #textile form. My first trip included my wife-at-the-time, Carey, and it started as part of an @Earthwatch_org #research expedition in the #rainforests of southwestern #China. Once that work was completed, Carey and I traveled through #Guangzhou to #Shanghai, and now have boarded a train that will take us to #Suzhou. I will spend A GREAT DEAL OF TIME in Suzhou over the next 25-years, and this new blog post will tell the story of walking those beautiful streets and canals. The train experience from Shanghai to Suzhou was a bit calmer than our previous airport experience, but railcars with no air-conditioning and WAY too many smokers (and spitters) made us grateful we could open the windows. My #camera and I were happy to have the view, and I was amazed how quickly the structures of Shanghai gave way to #agriculture, rice and fish ponds, and numerous bird farms.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #China #Suzhou

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