HowardHoward French by Fantake via Flickr

Howard French, former China bureau chief for the New York Times, explains in one of the paper’s blogs how photography helped him to keep his sanity while studying Chinese in Shanghai.

I spent my first six months immersed in language training; eight hours a day, five days a week. I would emerge deeply exhausted at the end of each day. By week’s end, I would be desperate for relief.

I turned to photography, which had been a serious hobby and occasional freelance pursuit since I was a teenager.

Each weekend I set out alone on long walks from my house in the leafy former French Concession. One Saturday, the magical discovery came. A couple of blocks off of one of the city’s fanciest commercial boulevards, I discovered a raw, textured world like none I had seen before in Shanghai. It was a densely packed place of tumbledown, two-story housing and long internal alleyways. The bustle of street hagglers and of job seekers, just in from the countryside, spoke of earlier times.

This therapy turning into a beautiful historical document of past Shanghai, that has been buldozered away to a large degree to give way to the World expo 2010.
More, especially pictures, in the NYT blog Lens. 

Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need him at your conference, do get in touch.

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