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August 20, 2008

A Master At Work

Many budding photographers find work as assistants to those well established in the field before setting off on their own. A young photographer myself, I decided to take this opportunity at the Olympics to meet photographers and observe how they work, and I’m always amazed at how much I’m able to learn. Yesterday, I shadowed former New York Times staffer Vincent Laforet, currently on assignment for Newsweek.

Vince told me about a shot he had in mind several days ago, and asked where we could go to make it work. After a dozen phone calls and text messages to a translator familiar with the area, we settled on the town of Changping, located in the Changping District of Beijing, a suburb northwest of the city. The translator and I met at my hotel, hired a cab for the night, and headed over to pick up Vince near the Olympic Green.

After what seemed like an hour of driving, we arrived at a village near the Ming Tombs, a popular tourist attraction. We wandered down alleyways for 20 minutes, trying to talk to locals and searching for Vince’s shot -- Chinese gathered around a television to watch the Olympics in a rural area near Beijing. We saw some homes that might have worked, but decided to keep looking.

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A few minutes later, a man wearing a volunteer shirt approached us on his moped, and our translator asked him for advice on where to shoot. Our translator later identified him as the town’s leader -- to my surprise, he was incredibly helpful, and seemed to have a general understanding of why we were there. We began to follow the “volunteer” as curious locals joined our entourage. Eventually, Vince settled on a group of three people eating dinner and watching television in a tiny grocery store.

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I liked the shot, but it still wasn’t exactly what he was looking for, so we grabbed our cabbie and headed back to Beijing a few minutes later. After leaving the store, we noticed that an even larger crowd had formed -- about 20 people in total, including a well-dressed woman who looked very out of place. The woman was asking many questions, and our translator later identified her as a leader of the Changping district, who had been informed of our arrival.

By the time we reached the city, our cab fare had reached 278 CNY (about $42) -- most of my fares in Beijing are less than one tenth of that amount, and our translator was fascinated by the high number on the meter. 330 CNY later (luckily, Vince had paid), I arrived back at my hotel, to prepare for another day in the Olympics bubble. In the end, Vince wasn’t able to get the picture he had wanted, but we plan to give it another shot in a few days.

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Visit Newsweek’s “Visions of China” blog for Laforet’s in-depth account of the evening.

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Comments

Marco Togni

I read Vincent's post on Newskeek's blog yesterday, and it's nice to read another point of view here.
I like the photo you took of Vincent at work.

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