Andrea Calestani Photographer

Trip to the East

Where do you start documenting places and people you’ve never seen or met before? I don’t think there is a rule to follow. It was worth what I encountered along the way; the one that most struck my curiosity, aesthetics and emotion at the moment of the “click“.

It was in spring of 2019 that I undertook the trip to the Far East. Unaware that a few months later the world would experience one of the most serious pandemic crises in modern history. So, for me as a Westerner, it was quite surprising to encounter unusual lifestyles beforehand. Which would soon forcefully enter our way of living, upsetting our most common habits and our relationships.

Since my point of view (of photography) is mainly anthropological, the first meeting I had with those populations, what intrigued me the most was their intransigent posture in habitually wearing masks on their faces. For their own protection and for others’. But I linked the most plausible justification to the critical conditions of air pollution, the common denominator of the metropolises I visited: Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok.

I remember well when on the morning of April 16th in Beijing, at 5.43am, the pollution index (US AQI=180) was “red alarm-Unhealthy“. I woke up early to capture the sunrise over the skyline of the Chinese capital; from the eighth floor where the hotel room was, I imagined an amazing view. I moved the curtain aside and looked outside to take the photograph: a surreal scenario appeared to me.

The air was dense, reddish in colour, just like the iconic setting of the film Blade Runner. A blanket of reddish fog that would never clear. Not even when I climbed the Great Wall eighty kilometers north of Beijing. In fact, I was very disappointed when, on my return, in the reportage I didn’t find any photographs that gave the right scenic relevance of the UNESCO heritage site.

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