Category Archives for "Photos"

Jun 04

Images from 9,000 meters above the Arctic Ocean

By Mitchell Blatt | Photos , Travel

Flying from Beijing to Washington, DC, I had a window seat, and for most of the flight, there were clear views. I always find it interesting to look out at life below. On this flight, I also had a chance to look down at lack of life. The flight took a route over Russia and passed over the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska before passing over Yukon and the Northwestern Territories (seems to be similar to the A218 route). The vastness of the empty space, pure snowfields for miles, is mystical. But so, too, is the view high above cities and farmland, roads extending to the horizon, thoughts of what so many people are doing on the ground 30,000 feet below. It is interesting to look out the window with the flight’s live tracking map on, as you can see just about where you are. Comparing the lay of the land in China and the U.S., you can learn a little about urban planning.

I begin to notice the view as the plane is flying over Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province. With a population of 38 million, it is one of China’s lesser-populated provinces, and the sixth least populated by density.
A short time later, the plane flies over Harbin, the capital city. By Chinese standards, Harbin is not a huge city, but it is not small. The population of its urban center is about 5 million. I was looking out the right side of the plane, towards the east, so it appears the view is of the eastern suburbs. The downtown area is to the west of Harbin’s administrative area, which would probably be out the other window or under the plane.
The Far Eastern Federal District has a population of 8.3 million, smaller than the population of the entire Harbin administrative district. Its population density of 1.2 people per square kilometer is less than half that of Tibet. Just two cities have populations larger than 500,000.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is about 1,000 miles away from here.
The airline’s flight tracker showed we were near Cape Dalhousie, at the northern tip of the Northwest Territories. It may have been some other ice feature in Liverpool Bay. Sir John Franklin explored this area between 1825-1827, helping to map the coast and the Mackenzie River.
I zoomed in for this one. I was admiring the textures on the ground.

The total population of the Northwest Territories is 41,786. That’s a population density of 0.04/sq km. (And that’s only the second smallest in Canada.) Yellowknife, its capital city (located in the southern half of the territory), has a population of 19,569.
My inflight TV console had malfunctioned by this point in the flight, so I’m not sure what town exactly this is. It’s either in Pennsylvania or Maryland. According to the flight route, one possibility is Hagerstown, MD. It looks like much of the Eastern United States. Compare the layout of the roads in this small city to those of Harbin. This American city appears to have more subdivisions, more curved and disconnected roads, than Harbin, which has more of a block-by-block layout.
We descend into the Virginia/DC suburb area. My phone dies after taking this shot.
Jan 23

New York City in black and white: A webzine of my travels

By Mitchell Blatt | Photos , Travel

I visited one of the world’s great cities outside of Asia this past weekend. That would be New York City. One need not be told that New York City is a hub of culture. I sought out dive bars of Brooklyn, art galleries and zine shops of Chelsea, underground sake bars, Chinatown dumpling restaurants, pork bone soup in Koreatown, crowded Cuban restaurants with tiny tables crammed closely together.

I’m going to list some of the highlights, some of which are included in the photos, below the toggle.

See highlights

Sake Bar Decibel at 240 E 9th St; Café Habana at 17 Prince St; PanYa, which serves Japanese breakfasts with fish and miso at 8 Stuyvesant St; Totto Ramen at 366 W 52nd St; Famous Xian Foods, a chain serving real tasty Xian noodles that started out in Flushing’s Chinatown and now has locations around the city; and Printed Matter, Inc., where the zine stockpile I photographed is located.

I thought the best way to present such a city is in black and white scanned photography.

New York in Black and White by on Scribd

Jun 01

Dali’s most important religious festival starts June 6: Photos

By Mitchell Blatt | China , Culture , Photos

During Raosanling festival in Dali, Yunnan province, people sing and dance, slaughter chickens, and pray in front of epic billows of smoke emanating from the most burning joss paper most tourists will ever see in one place at one time.

Raosanling is a festival of the local Bai ethnicity, who believe in both Buddhism and Benzhu folk religion. It lasts three days and is celebrated at three separate locations nearby Dali Ancient Village: Qingdong temple on the first day, Xizhou the second day, and Majiuyi temple on the third day.

Because it begins on the 23rd day of the 4th lunar month, it starts on June 6 on the Gregorian calendar this year. Here are some photos I took of the first day of Raosanling in 2013:
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Mar 08

Kakao Friends Store: Branded stickers from chat apps take over Asia

By Mitchell Blatt | Korea , Photos

I wrote last year about how LINE Friends Cafes are opening up around China, based on the characters in the branded stickers of the Japanese chat app LINE.

Now upon my arrival in Korea, I noticed a similar store with Korean chat characters.

In Korea, Kakao is the leading chat app, with, Kakao’s investor relations team claims, 41 million domestic active users (in a country of 50 million). Apparently it noticed the profitability trend of characters, too. Kakao opened its second store in Hongdae in November 2016. Its first store, in Gangnam, attracted 450,000 visitors in one of its first months. With the opening of the Gangnam store, revenue from Kakao Friends merchandise more than doubled versus the previous quarter. Now there are eight stores in Seoul.
Why do chat app character stores have so much success in Asia? Probably because there is a kawaii (or kiyomi in Korea) culture in Asia that is attracted towards cuteness. Chat characters and smileys are also a big part of chatting. In fact, emojis were initially developed in Japan, as the word “emoji” and the large amount of Japan-specific international emojis is testament to.

The mobile companies Line Corp, Kakao, and TenCent (WeChat) all focus on cross platform branding and sales channels. Besides its chat app, Kakao has taxi-hailing and ride-hailing apps, apps for shopping, video sharing, payment, games, Kakao Story, Kakao Music, and more. Unified use of the characters across platforms (Kakao Games feature the Kakao Friends) helps promote each platform. LINE even did a web series about their LINE Friends.




Nov 08

Cantonese folk art associations and the preservation of culture

By Mitchell Blatt | Art , China , Photos

On November 6, Cantonese opera actress Li Chixiang shared her expertise and experiences with the Yuanzhou Town Folk Art Association (园洲镇曲艺协会). Singing, dancing, doing magic and recalling stories, she was able to draw laughter and applause from the audience of a few dozen locals intent on preserving China’s traditional art forms.

“China has 5,000 years of history. We should pass it on,” said Zhu Runhong, a member of the folk are association.

Li spoke for an hour, talking about how she once ran away from her home in the suburbs of Guangzhou to try to study Cantonese opera and later was enrolled in the Guangdong Cantonese Opera Academy. Showing off her wide range of talents, she did a trick to turn blank papers into 100 RMB bills and danced with a multicolored fabric. It was like a “talk show,” she said. Every Friday she hosts a Cantonese opera show on Guangzhou TV, and the TV network sent its reporters to cover it.

“In an average month, we perform about five times like this,” Li said. “But in the rainy season, we might not perform once in a month, and during Spring Festival, we could perform every day, sometimes even twice a day.”

Zhou Aiwen, who has been an actress for 7 years, practices in the car on the way.
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After her act, the members of the Yuanzhou Town Folk Art Association’s Cantonese opera troupe took the stage to perform scenes from the opera Dinv Hua (帝女花). The group holds meetings and practices three times a week and competes with other local arts groups in local and regional competitions. Located in Shangnan city, about 2 hours from Guangzhou by car, Yuanzhou is one of many Guangdong villages to tout its rich Cantonese opera tradition. In 2012, the Shangnan Folk Art Society, featuring some members of the Yuanzhou group, won silver at a provincial Cantonese opera invitational.

The media in Yuanzhou even tries to use new technologies to preserve its traditional arts. One local entreprenuer founded Yuanzhou Online ( in 2006, a forum which includes news and events in BBS format, and launched a Boluo county app this year, upon which he live streamed Li’s talk and the opera performance to up to 1,500 viewers.

See also

Backstage with Li Chixiang at a Cantonese opera performance
An Interview with Li Chixiang

Jul 11

What are those flashing lights in the sky over China?

By Mitchell Blatt | China , Culture , Photos , Strange China News

A UFO in the Shanghai sky? An obscure Chinese website reported that some people were shocked when they saw flashing lights way up high at night (Chinese text). When reporters went to People’s Square, they found a man reeling in a kite with flashing LED lights.

China has UFO obsessives, too, and Wo Ai Jie Mi (“I Love Solving Mysteries”) has article after article about LED light kites. It’s the easiest thing to find.


Look up at the night sky in an X-million people city in China, and you won’t see any stars. They’ve been disappeared behind light pollution. But Chinese people have beautified the night sky with their own kind of light pollution: LED light kites.

Other foreigners have been fooled before when they’ve seen it:

UFO in Shanghai
I saw this a few weeks back when I was blasted in a taxi. Woke up thinking I made it up, then saw this video on YouTube and it’s exactly the same thing I saw. Did anyone else see this shit?

Photo by Mitchell Blatt.

Photo by Mitchell Blatt.

Every night outside my home, close by the bank of the Yangtze River, bright reds, pinks, greens, and blues shine down from the sky. These kitesContinue reading

Jun 29

Meeting an artist who paints with his hair in Beijing’s 798 Art District

By Mitchell Blatt | Art , China , Culture , Photos

Over Dragon Boat Festival, I visited Beijing and met an artist who paints with his hair. Some long papers were hanging down from an abandoned railway car that was covered with graffiti. On the paper were black swatches, dots, and thin streaming lines. A long-haired man was sitting down near the set up, and I asked him if it was his. “Yes,” he responded. His artist name was Namu (“big tree” in Korean), and he had been in China for 2 years.

Here are some photos of his art exhibition:

Namu and I
Namu, a Korean painter and performance artist, has lived in China for two years. He often works and performs at the Jiuchang Live House.
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The box cars are nearby the south entrance of 798:

798 Art Zone originated out of an abandoned factory area that was opened in the 1950’s. From 1957 until Deng Xiaoping’s market-oriented economic reforms resulted in it being shut down, it produced military and civilian products. At its peak, 20,000 or so people worked there. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, avant-garde artists began moving there and using the old facilities. One of the artists who has had a connection with 798 is political artist Ai Wei Wei. By now there are also many shops and restaurants, as it is a popular tourist destination, but serious art exhibitions, most of them free to view, remain.

For his exhibition of "Host," which runs until August 20, 2016, British artist Antony Gormley put sculptures in a warehouse and on the walls.
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Besides galleries and exhibitions, the graffiti painted around the area is also very beautiful.

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Continue reading

Jun 26

Watching lion dance acrobatics at Ip Man’s temple

By Mitchell Blatt | China , Culture , Photos

Lion on Top
Zumiao often hosts kung fu performances. Lion dances, a traditional Chinese custom, are performed by kung fu students.
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Zumiao Temple is located in the heart of Foshan, a suburb of Guangzhou that was home to kung fu legends Ip Man, Bruce Lee’s master, and Huang Feihong. Just five minutes north from Zumiao Station (on Zumiao Lu), Zumiao Temple includes small museums about the two warriors and impressive works of huisu sculpture. In the afternoons it often hosts kung fu performances, lion dances, and Cantonese opera.

Jul 14

Edward Snowden Asylum Search Stock Photos for Sale for Editorial Use

By Mitchell Blatt | Photos

Edward Snowden is still in Russia looking for asylum after leaking classified NSA documents. He first went to Hong Kong where he revealed that the United States is hacking into Chinese internet. There, he received support from some Hong Kongese activists in the form of signs proclaiming “Save Snowden, Save Freedom”.

Edward Snowden Editorial Use Stock Photos

When I was in Hong Kong recently, I took some photos exploring various aspects of the Edward Snowden situation, which I have put up for sale at Deposit Photos for editorial use. These photos are great for accompanying news stories, as some media outlets have already found out.
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