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December 26, 2009

old kashgar, renewed

On the road for over three months now and not a peep on this blog. Not to site any poor excuses, but Xinjiang had a communication blackout: no internet, no international phone calls and no text messages, and before that, my time in the rest of China wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped for it to be; some ideas and stories just fell through. But here I am now, after almost two weeks in Kashgar, then a month in Pakistan, with many photos and a whole lot of inspiration and travel stories at hand.

I refresh this blog starting in Kashgar, an old Silk Road city located on the western edges of the Taklamakan Desert in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Kashgar a thousand plus years ago was a bustling place, a trading hub, where  merchants brought their goods ranging from spices to silk. Walking through the Old City today, the streets are lined with hundreds of stores and artisans. It’s like being thrown right back to a time long past. The sound of clang clang clang, hammers coming down on copper and tin wares, fill the narrow streets; wood shavings spill out onto the sidewalks from the tiny shops selling candle holders, while hawkers push along donkey carts topped with vegetables and fruits.

Xinjiang province with a population of about 3.5 million people, is inhabited by a majority of ethnically Turkic people– Uighurs– though numbers of Han Chinese have steadily increased to over 40 percent in the last 60 years. The province’s abundance of rare earth, oil, and natural gas reserves have drawn many Han Chinese to the area for employment and has prompted the Chinese government to rapidly transform the region with modern facilities and residential areas. Kashgar is, in short, on its way to being a typical modern Chinese city. An estimated 85 percent of the Old City is planned to be demolished under the premise of creating more fire and earthquake-safe houses, while other less-mentioned reasons include the Chinese government’s fear of separatist movement activities, some of which the Chinese government claims to have ties with jihadists internationally. New brightly colored housing estates are shooting up all over the city, while the old two-storey houses are bulldozed over. Officials have claimed to have consulted Uighurs in residence there about new projects and continue to do so throughout their developments. From what I could see though, the mood there in Kasghar was one of helplessness and the feeling that the Uighurs themselves needed to concede to the changes, perhaps because of inevitability, or for fear of retribution if they don’t.

Here’s a look into the old, changing, and new Kasghar.

Kashgar – Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China

Doing homework in the Old City

The occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the PRC’s founding (October 1) made sure that no efforts were spared for celebration

at the Id Kah Mosque, China’s largest mosque


Old Kashgar

A scene in the Old City

A baker and his family

Children watch television outside a store

Women sit in a doorway talking and knitting

One of the hundreds of meat shops around Kashgar

A tailor shop in the Old City

A workshop making bamboo steaming baskets


Changing Kashgar

Old houses are torn down and then rebuilt. This one family was responsible for the construction of their new home.

more construction
A neighborhood mosque at sunset

Uighur men walk past boards displayed outside the main mosque in Kashgar. The boards show plans for the construction of new residential buildings, Uighurs fervently holding Chinese flags in ‘appreciation’ of the Chinese government’s efforts, as well as pictures of Chinese officials touring Kashgar’s Old City.

A Uighur man walks out of one of the hundreds of construction sites around the city

Boys play football in a pit where new residential buildings will be built

After-school football. Uighur children are now required to attend classes taught in Mandarin

A Uighur woman walks amidst the construction

A glimpse into the courtyard of a traditional uighur house

A Uighur worker pulls up dirt from a pit as new tunnel ways are made for pipes and other small infrastructure

A bridge connecting to the Old City under construction

Food stalls opened by Han Chinese serving up other fellow Han have become a common sight around Kasghar

The People’s Square with a statue of Chairman Mao standing at 59 ft. tall

The Old City by night


New Kashgar

PLA soldiers on duty in the People’s Square outside the Renmin Park (The People’s Park)

On the south east side of the city is Dong Lake, a place that has been transformed into a modern park, not short of neon lights at night, with a vast amount of recreational space

A part of the Old City, which is being preserved mostly for tourism, is lit up at night

The Last of the Kashgar tea houses

The rapid changes in Kashgar are sweeping both landmarks and pastimes away. One in particular is the habit of men sitting in teahouses, which fill up in the late afternoon with retired folks who sit and chat, sometimes in to the early evening sipping on flower tea. Nondescript from the outside, the moment you walk into this one teahouse I frequented, is like a moment of finding some treasure.


The Sunday Crush

Scenes from Kasghar’s livestock and Sunday markets.

September 17, 2009

singers, sleepers; fortunes, trinkets

Filed under: blog — Tags: , — nicoletung @ 12:16 pm

A night out on Temple Street, Hong Kong IMG_0221wong uncle uncanny predictionIMG_0227xingqi-chinese chess
IMG_0232open air karaoke, every night of the week
IMG_0244her own idol
IMG_0254four men and their chairsIMG_0264IMG_0273tarot card readers IMG_0280every woman’s fantasy for their manIMG_0287sellers at their stalls, with everything ranging from lighters to socks to knock off Polo shirtsIMG_0296in the kitchen

September 14, 2009

WTC: From the Inside Out

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , — nicoletung @ 11:45 pm


Back in March as I was working on the documentary arts project on the World Trade Center, I spent some time near the Church St. fence looking out for some while at the scene from the inside, looking out. Every time you pass by the site there are point and shoot cameras abound, foreign and American tourists and New Yorkers, too, curious to get a glimpse of what goes on at the site. In fact, I found that any insight the public gets readily excites them, and fair enough– it’s a 16-acre site completely fenced off and the only view you can get of it are through the ripped canvasses on the fences or from towers surrounding it. Few people really grasp what is going on at the World Trade Center– it is rebuilding– save that there is just a whole lot of politics and seemingly nothing else happening. Here’s a little glimpse of what Church St. looks like from inside of the site, curiosities and passersby, all day, everyday.



July 22, 2009


Filed under: blog — nicoletung @ 3:34 pm

These past two weeks have been pretty busy to say the least, intensely busy, made the richer with seeing old friends, making new ones, and having far, far too many late nights. My mind is just a little hazy, but at least our exhibition on the World Trade Center is being put together as I write. I really look forward to seeing those of you who can make it, there tomorrow evening (Thursday July 23)– it’ll mean boat loads.

One for the road: this is Terry Coyote Murphy– part Cherokee, part Irish. Union Square Park, July 22.



July 4, 2009

the world trade center … in panorama

WTC_pano005down near Tower 1, 29.06.09


new york in panorama

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , , , — nicoletung @ 2:46 pm

see, feel, aim, think, shoot. finish roll, get processed. get contact sheets. look, see, think a bit. scan negatives, scan contact sheets. …a lot more labor than digital, but with so many more exciting, interesting results.

bwneg309a building in Tribeca, New York.

bwneg1309in the East Village


July 2, 2009

from the archive: navajo in color

Filed under: from the archive — Tags: , , — nicoletung @ 9:20 pm

I went back to some photographs I hadn’t seen in a few months, from the Navajo reservation when I was there back in December. I’d become so used to seeing my story on Navajo war veterans in black and white that I’d almost forgotten the other images of the beauty and magic that this place held… the vibrancy and strength in its colors. Why I decided to have my veterans story in b&w was because I wanted to show a consistent idea or concept throughout the images and the story itself, and felt the colors would disperse the concentration away from that for both myself, the person seeing these images, and the subject on the whole. But otherwise, I love these colors in a whole other context outside of the veterans story– the reservation is so rich with it, it’s hard not to.

_MG_0831Blue Gap, AZ– 12.09. A matriarch in this community, this elderly woman had injured herself pretty badly that week after falling off a ladder and bruising her face. She had barely enough hay to see her sheep through the winter too. It’s intriguing to see that the oldest generation continue to keep to their traditional ways of life for the most part, whilst the youngest, in their 20s, aspire to a different kind of life, one generally not involving the care of livestock. Women well into their 80s will walk several miles a day, chop their own wood, and tend to their beloved cattle or sheep– their resilience is really quite awesome.

_MG_9827Colors and shapes: a view of Canyon de Chelley near Chinle, AZ. 12.09.

July 1, 2009

on site : documenting the rebuilding of the WTC

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , , — nicoletung @ 11:28 pm

On Site Exhibit

June 29, 2009

from the archive…

Filed under: from the archive — Tags: , , — nicoletung @ 10:27 pm

As I (very slowly) put a proper portfolio together I’m coming across all sorts of photos I’d never properly given attention to in a post, so here starts the inaugural ‘from the archive’ photos– some are random photographs, others from mini-stories, still others from things I’d picked up seemingly long ago and have been meaning to pick up again.

Back in April, a friend and classmate approached me to ask if I could photograph her and her best friends, who were also dorm/room mates at NYU. It was about the last time in probably a long time they’d all be together, as some were graduating and others stayed, and they really wanted something that they could remember their time by: a ‘family’ album of sorts. I only spent a few hours hanging out with them on a rather blazingly hot Spring afternoon, and only having just met them as I walked into the door, I was totally embraced and given a fair share of the cookie dough they were in the midst of making… I’d never had that group of friends to share something so intimate with during college, it made me actually yearn for the group I used to spend my time with back in high school, but it amazed me and made me very fully happy to see how much love there was going all round. This one goes to friendship and the bonds we vow never to lose.

03quintessentially New York: the view from room 602 at NYU’s Broome St. dorm. April, 2009.

09from left to right: Arianna, Namrita, Foram, Kaysi, and Michaela


69Namrita gets ready for the senior formal

21making of the very, very scrumptiously buttery cookie dough.


June 20, 2009


Filed under: blog — nicoletung @ 9:38 pm

It’s about time to get this blog back on track… some revamping is on its way, pages out, other pages in. Things have really started to pile up and it’s all working chaotically, beautifully. A weekend down in Charlottesville, VA at the Look3 Festival of the Photograph provided for some new insights, inspiration, and of course new friends. I have to say, no place radiated a more fun loving atmosphere than did that wonderful host-town. Some photos might be able to explain it all better. Currently, working on getting an exhibition together for the end of July, which will feature some photos from the World Trade Center project I’m working on until August. All is up in the air thereafter, all TBD… some daunting prospect in a rather more exciting time. 


Serving up brunch at the party pad


before the finale; with an incredibly talented and heartwarming group of people. clockwise from top left: Brandon Thibodeaux, Brenda Bravo, Mustafah Abdulaziz, Matt Craig, Blake Gordon, Tim Hussin, Alex Welsh, Jeff Enlow, myself


downtown Charlottesville, maybe around 1am on Saturday? it’s all a little fuzzy


down by the lake


toast to a perfect day: a late awakening, driving under blue skies, a cold swim, getting groceries,cooking in the kitchen commune, good conversation and great company all the way through. 





more updates coming as more gets under way, that’s promised…. 

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