QUEEN & EM

YEHLIU, Taiwan in 1980: What was once an iconic landmark on the northern shores of Taiwan where visitors stroll onto the small magical beach and find pretty maiden hawk their daily goods, is no longer. Today, it is a a park with a hefty entrance fee.

Queen and EM

YEHLIU, TAIWAN

In 1980, I was on a year-long assignment on Taiwan for National Geographic . It was a time the island, in fact, the whole world, was in the wake of an awakening giant, China. It’s nice to be back to the island 38 years later to find it thriving, clean, sophisticated and the people, honest. (You can tell by the cab drivers).

I was also happy to find the “Queen’s Head” at Yehliu still standing. Though smaller than I remember. (4,000 years will shrink anyone.) Seeing her again made me wondered whether the island will allow erosion to take its course or will they intervene and how?  I’ve been told that her neck has shrunk to four feet in circumference. After all, her stately features only came about in 1962-63 when part of the mushroom rock broke off to expose her majesty.

With me to this cape on the north coast was my muse and adopted daughter Em Marie. She  joined her mother and me on the only day-off from her busy modeling schedule. Having never met the Queen, (named after Queen Elizabeth) I thought she was quite apropos in her presentation. 

Full resolution of the image is 5 feet by 2.5 feet.
(Click on image to view lighted color version)

1970’s DECADE

DECADE OF ADVENTURE: Fresh and exciting, a decade of innocent encounters, whether temporal or spiritual, all powerful awakenings. A dance of light, faith, and form, converging in time, out of chaos into moments of delight and awe.

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MACAQUE WARRIOR

NEW WORK: I felt I had an appointment with a moment. So I went up the mountain in the rain. Half-frozen I came down with nothing to justify the morning soak. Then out of the woods, this monkey came and sat in front of me…

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Buey Grossman

BABY BUEY
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Ruth Lester

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Louie Psihoyos

FILMMAKER
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ECONOMICS PROFESSOR
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MACAQUE WARRIOR

Zhangjiajie Park, China, 2018

Macaque monkey looking despondent.
The Macaque Warrior sat there for a good 3 minutes oblivious to me. His face was bloodied from a fight and looked far more despondent than your typical Macaque. These encounters have become rare in this part of China. An overly aggressive tourist got bitten a few years past so officials made it a practice to thrown firecrackers at the monkeys to discourage interaction. Somehow this poor guy came out for a few minute to hand me a gift.​

Monkey Business

I felt I had an appointment that morning in China. The sensation was so strong that I aborted a tour group, in the middle of the highway, to hail a taxi  back to the gateway town of Wulingyuan, two hours away. 

The park in this Hunan Province town is a massive 23 square mile area called Zhangjiajie. For some reason I needed to return to a specific area where the makers of the movie Avatar, got their inspiration for Hallelujah Mountain. The urgency was so compelling; I was the first person in the park the next morning, took the first bus to the base to ride up the tallest outside elevator in the world. Rode up the side of the mountain and got on the second bus filled with park workers going to work. I then hiked in the rain, to the overlook and for a few hours, I tried to photograph while juggling an umbrella.

The fog, the rain was unrelenting and I was ready to admit defeat after a few hours. I decided to give one more stab at the viewpoint. It was unimpressive. As I made my way back to the bus, three figures approached. Out from under one of the parka hood, a pair of woman’s eyes crossed my sight. It was distinctly western, it quickly looked away when we passed. 

I walked thinking about how rare to see a western tourist in this part of China then returned back to the dreary weather. When I concluded there was nothing more to justify the miserable soaking, I rode down the elevator and paused at the base wondering, “What was the urgency that brought me out that morning?” If it was to photograph, it certainly was a bust. 

Suddenly, I see a monkey walk out of the woods. He ambled by, and jumped (more like levitated) up to a concrete railing next to me. He took three crisscrossing steps of hands and feet to approach and then mounted a post. He settles his body around as if to pose. Seeing my first Macaque up close, I immediately went for the camera. The monkey didn’t care. His mind was somewhere else. 

He didn’t look happy. A deep gash across his right forehead suggests a fight. He looked terrible, depressed, worse than a normal Macaque. He just ignored me, pouted. A few minutes later, he got up, jumped down, and slowly crawled back into the woods. 

“Wow! What was that? No doubt the highlight of my day!” It was the moment I beseeched. It was thrilling; it even got me up the next morning, hoping luck would strike the same mountain twice. 

So I rode the 66-second elevator up the third time. ($12 each way!) Since the weather improved, I planned to make the same round but come down the park on the Tianzi Mountian cable car. Once again, it was uneventful — beautiful sceneries but nothing earth-shattering. On my way out of the cable car park, I notice another western face. It was the profile of a young woman with a radiant smile. There was innocence, a sublime beauty full of empathy in that fleeting glimpse. It caused me to turn back and look after they passed. There were three women; two were wearing brown hiking boots. Indeed a fleeting sight but, this was my last day, time to pack for the trip home.

The night, filled with Chinese faces boarding the flight — Three-Hours north to Peking to fly four-hours south to Hong Kong, then 5 hours north, again, to Korea to catch a flight across the ocean, home. I shook my head as I inched forward on the delayed flight. It was past midnight. “Who would book such a route just to save $60?”  

From afar, I spot two western women next to an empty seat looking at me expectantly. I store my bag overhead, confirmed it was my seat, said hello to one in the middle, and then greeted what appears to be the daughter. She responded gleefully, and the mother thanked me for speaking English. We talked. They’re on their way back to Peking and have been bouncing around Asia for a year following the daughter’s budding modeling career. Before long, their descriptions of the past two days started to sound familiar. I suddenly asked to see what kind of shoes they were wearing, and I leaned down to see two pairs of brown hiking boots!

EPILOGUE:
It was the quickest 3-hour flight. I was so engaged in the conversation; I forgot to go to the bathroom. By the time I realized I had to go, the plane was landing. I told the mother, “Boy, I need to go pee!” Getting off the plane was excruciatingly long, the walk to the bathroom, even longer. The mother thought it was my way of saying goodbye but don’t tell this to anyone.

It’s the first time I met two girls and wet my pants.

Mother and daughter enjoying Chinese food.
Dawna Price and EM Marie in Taiwan, 2019

Not Connected? 

1980’s DECADE

INDULGING DEFIANCE: Photography gave me wings but also a sense of boundless creativity. This was a decade of independence, anti-establishment. It was a decade that avoided entrapment, both stylistic and accomplishment,. an era of exploration and renaissance.

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Mt. EVEREST

NEW WORK: In sixty-five years we have brought Mt.Everest to its knees. Human excrement, garbage, and dead bodies have desecrated this once pristine and delicate ecology. Water running off this mountain has been declared unsafe to drink and feared to be diseased laden.

Read More »

1970’s DECADE

DECADE OF ADVENTURE: Fresh and exciting, a decade of innocent encounters, whether temporal or spiritual, all powerful awakenings. A dance of light, faith, and form, converging in time, out of chaos into moments of delight and awe.

Read More »

Jim Forbes

PHOTOGRAPHER
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Sarah Leen

EDITOR/MANAGER
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Louie Psihoyos

FILMMAKER
A future blog about Oscar-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos will be completed here. Enter now to see photos. Since 1984.

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Louie Psihoyos

FILMMAKER
A future blog about Oscar-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos will be completed here. Enter now to see photos. Since 1984.

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HONG KONG SUNSET

I’ve visited Hong Kong a dozen times in the past 50-years. Traditionally, a visit isn’t complete without a trek up to Victoria Peak. The view from the peak always gave me a sense of perspective and see the confluence of the world through the enchanting city. So during my recent visit, I made a point to photograph from the peak. 

A subway ride, followed by a tram up the steep concrete covered hill made it theoretically easy but the lines going and coming made it painful. In the years since my first visit, the peak has changed. Sadly, like most wonders of the world, the need to modernize and capitalize always squelch the cultural charm and turn it into state-of-the-art terminal shopping malls. Hong Kong has always been the gateway to emerging countries. One by one they’ve leap-frog over Hong Kong and overshadow what was once the crown of the Orient. 

Space being tight and opportunity even tighter, Victoria Peak was a prime target for developers. While I was there construction continues on bigger and better ways to supplement the stunning view. Sightseers arriving on the Peak Tram are dropped in the Peak Tower and immediately railroaded (via escalators) through 7 stories of dazzling restaurants, gift shops, and entertainment centers that include Ripley’s Believe it or Not! and a Madam Tussauds Wax Museum. Well, you can’t argue with success and there is no shortage of customers.  A steady stream of wide-eyed Chinese tourists pour in everyday and aggressively fight to get their selfie memory. 

“If a photo manifest here,” I thought as I defended my tripod turf against woman insisting on encroaching  with no apparent reason,  “This may be farewell to the Peak.”

It was a cloudy day and being the itinerant photographer, I had no intention of coming back day after day to find the perfect light. The paradox of my visual quest, the quests of chasing unseen moments, means freedom from expectations and freedom from my programing, taste and definitions. What we call experience, trend, style, may in time expose themselves as misguided. This sense of perfection often turns into predictable outcomes, the perfect lit-till-you-puke moments of unreality that matches your sense of reality. So what am I doing  here on this mountain looking down at a view everyone wants to capitalize? I don’t know? 

Well, maybe I do know and… oh!  I’ll hate myself for writing this, Maybe I’m trying to be the guy who makes lemonade when life gives him or her lemons. There, for what’s it’s worth, that was my mental state.

So I anticipated the conditions to be mediocre and brought along the portable tripod that I have never used. The fact that I bought one three years ago is a miracle and to have lugged it on my carry-on only baggage even more. My thought was to stay till dark and get the lights so it did serve its purpose but I’m just not that kind of photographer.

So back to the lemon. Part of the joy of being open to receiving lemons is that you really never know what you’ll get. Consequentially, on this day, the sun peeked out under the layer of clouds and radiated a golden moment worthy of sublime gratitude.

 

VISION QUEST

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DEATH & RESURRECTION

Jerusalem O’ Jerusalem…
Your tombs are filled with those alive. 
In your gates the world despise. 
When Angels come to sing renew,
the walls of darkness dim the light.
Light does shine on the land,
you’re embraced by the night.

Jerusalem O’ Jerusalem,
my chosen one.
You have ears, you have eyes.
Walk-in might not in fright.
See the dead they do arise. 
You who dwell must find reprise.
Walk beyond your darkened tomb. 
Hear the cries within her womb.
See the tears of those oppressed
they are memories you’ve possessed. 

O’ Jerusalem, my Jerusalem.
Sing the songs of your heart,
forgive the world forgive yourself.
Love thy neighbor for thyself.
Forsake these tombs of your demise.

CELESTIAL ARTIFACTS

Celestrial Artifacts

Gaza, Egypt

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50-YEAR VISION QUEST

Other New Works

VARANASI, INDIA

NEW WORK: It’s my last day in India and I wanted to return to where Life and Love are perfected.

Collectable

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JORDANIAN FORK

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VISION QUEST

Don't miss my Visual Blogs: From the past to the future

WADI-RUN, JORDAN

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STAY IN THE LOOP

John Chao's VISION QUEST: Photo Blogs from the past to the future

SECRET BEACH

Secret Beach

OREGON

This page is a work in progress. SUBSCRIBE below for the latest stories, blogs and (if you’re my friend and I’ve taken pictures of you in the last 50 years) don’t miss friendship updates. Thank You!

1990’s DECADE

SINK OR SWIM: The ’90s were filled with risk and perils. A decade of demanding faith and vision. Jumping before knowing where to land. A decade filled with challenges, difficulties and yet breathtaking miracles.

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HONG KONG SUNSET

NEW WORK: I’ve visited Hong Kong a dozen times in the past 50-year. It seems any visit would not be complete without a trek up to Victoria Peak. It’s a view that lends perspective and reveals the general state of the world. My recent visit is no exception.

Read More »

Collectable

It may not be Art but it's a collectable!
SALE

Karl Katz

DIRECTOR METROPOLITAN MUSEUM
A future blog about Karl Katzwill be added here. Enter now to see photos. Circa 1973.

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Teresa Heinz

Welcome to the future page about Teresa Heinz, widow of former U.S. Senator John Heinz and the wife of former U.S. Secretary of State, longtime U.S. Senator, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

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John Chao Vision Quest

Uncle-Cam Townsend

Welcome to the future Blog page about William Cameron Townsend . The founder of The Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Enter to see photos. Circa 1975

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YOSEMITE SUNSET

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CRATER LAKE, OREGON

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Mt. EVEREST

In sixty-five years we have brought Mt.Everest to its knees. Human excrement, garbage, and dead bodies have desecrated this once pristine and delicate ecology. Water running off this mountain has been declared unsafe to drink and feared to be diseased laden.

Added to this alarm is the disappearance of glacier storage due to Climate Change. I took this picture 10 days ago in the middle of May, I was told that it just snowed two days before to give me a respectable top. 

One can’t help wonder how is this mountain range going to sustain 9 major rivers if this trend continues.

China has taken considerable actions in Tibet to fight Climate Change, (most notably the restriction on gas-powered mopeds and cycles). Nepal is slow to act. While clean up have started on the garbage side, severe restrictions are slow to come for fear of disrupting the economy. Kathmandu is a nightmare millions of gas spewing bikes right up against the windward face of the Himalayans.

HERE’s A LIST OF THE NINE RIVERS: (Imagine the number of people depending on them!)

Indus/Sindu River: 3,200 km.
Sutlej River: 1,450 km.
Ganges/Ganga River 2,700 km
Barhmaputra River 2,840 km
Mekong River 4,908 km
Yangtze River 6,397 km
Yellow River 5,464km
Salween River 3,240 km
Irrawaddy River 2,714 km

WATER IS LIFE!

VARANASI, INDIA

Hard to imagine a week ago I was at the headwaters of this river in Tibet witnessing the disappearance of glaciers due to climate change. Nine rivers, including this River Ganges, feed off that range. It puts a new perspective on WATER IS LIFE. 

It’s my last day in India and I wanted to return to where Life and Love are perfected.

LHASA

I went to Lhasa to see how the Chinese occupation has changed Tibet. I was moved by the reverence and inner strength of the people.  I thought if the Chinese can embrace Tibet, i.e. The Dalai Lama,  they will find the secret to longevity.

On the other hand, the amount of infrastructure being done by the Chinese to combat the consequences of Climate will save Tibet from certain ruin.

It occurred to me that the clash of two cultures here in Tibet is really a symbiotic dance for survival. One is in need of inner strength in the modern age of materialism, the other is in need of fundamental structural and financial strength in a time of ecological threat.