Friday, 10 February 2017

Chinatown Noir | Street Photography With The X-Pro2


CHINATOWN NOIR by Tewfic El-Sawy on Exposure

I am lucky to live in a neighborhood within easy walking distance to New York City's Chinatown. A mere 15 minutes or so, and I'm in Asia. It's as if I am walking in the cacophonous streets of Hong Kong, perhaps with a tiny smidgen of Hanoi thrown in, but without its motorcycle traffic madness.

My Fuji X-Pro2 with its 18mm f2.0 dangling from my neck, I take in the visual, aural and olfactory vibes of this quintessential Asian ambience, rub shoulders with its Fujianese and Cantonese residents; try to avoid and ignore the slow-walking sidewalk-hugging out-of-state out-of-shape tourists who gawk at them, and concentrate on catching interesting interactions and expressions.


I wear all black, with a dark scarf to sort of mask my camera. It might be a superfluous "precaution" since no one so far has noticed, nor minded me, taking pictures. They are far too engrossed in their daily to and fro, mostly shopping for seafood, vegetables and fruits. The overriding preoccupation in the streets of Chinatown is how and where to obtain the best and freshest (and cheapest) produce and household goods...as well as lining up for fresh tofu.

It is said that a street photographer is an extension of the flaneur, an observer of the streets. In my view, this is an apt analogy and one that I -by living for so long in a pulsating city such as New York- can do effortlessly and almost instinctively. 

A word about the monochromatic photographs in Chinatown Noir: I am not fond of Fuji's Acros film simulations, so I shoot in color and post-process using Silver Efex Pro 2.0 to achieve the 'look' that I like. My usual settings are Exposure Compensation Value of -1, an iso of 640, and the Fuji 18mm at either f5.6 or f8.0.

This is the first of what I hope will be many Chinatown Noir photo galleries. My readers can also view Hanoi Noir which I produced about two years ago in the Vietnamese capital. At that time, I used a Leica M9 and a Voigtlander 40mm lens, and a Fuji X-T1 and a Zeiss 12mm lens.