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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 1, 2009

on site : documenting the rebuilding of the WTC

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

On Site Exhibit

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…. 

May 25, 2009

‘so, what are you going to do now?’

Filed under: blog — nicoletung @ 2:09 pm

It’s the question I’m sure most college graduates were getting, and still are getting– ‘So, what are you going to do now? What’s next?’– Sometimes it’s asked with a mixed look of varying sentiment: mostly of curiosity, and often tinged with suppressed sympathy.

On my graduate end of things, giving an answer is obligatory, even if I myself am totally unsure of what’s next. I’ve been saying, for the most part, that I’ll be here in New York for the summer, looking to run away in the fall, to halfway across the world where I’ve never been, but am fascinated by, and it will be akin to a rebirth of sorts. Those particular plans are still very much afloat, amorphous, and totally, seemingly, utterly impossible at this given time. I’m coming down from the high of get-your-act-together-before-graduation, then actually graduating, and not remembering much of how I felt because it was a blur. Over the past few weeks I’ve silently been a nervous wreck, worried over how I wouldn’t actually make it to commencement because I’d miserably fail a required math course (which I of course left to the last semester of college)– but hurrah, I passed. Now that it’s over (and am relieved to know the extent of math I’ll have to do is calculating risk of death and taxes), now that I know I’ll be receiving my diploma in the mail, and that the euphoria of those celebrations are passed, here comes the reality. 

For all those riding the similar wave as I, this post is for you.

Despite the walls that seem to be crumbling down before our eyes, in the economy, in the world, that begets many more social ills that we’re possibly willing to endure, that often begets social chaos in certain places, I wholeheartedly believe there’s a place for us to look at adversity in the light of an opportunity. After all, what is a lesson without a challenge, and what is a life without learning from (stupid) mistakes. 

I have been told by photographers and journalists who are quite a bit older than me about the journalism industry lately, ‘it’s pretty terrible, pretty bleak’, and while I take it in, I won’t absorb it. This example I’m using in journalism can be applied to pretty much any aspect of the current labor market, and here’s my musing for the day, idealistic by far, hopeful at best: I know there will be many obstacles, many frustrations, things that will make me wonder what the hell I’m doing, why, for whom, and maybe even how best to get myself out of it. But this is what I’ll keep reminding myself until I’ve succeeded an inch: part of the joy of being young is having ideals, having the mind for opportunism and optimism (albeit cautiously, where it’s warranted) and having the flexibility to embrace the forcefulness of bad news, bad times, bad attitudes, and making it into something useful for oneself. More importantly, I’ll keep reminding myself of the personal purpose I’ve come to focus on, that it’s about the need of others, and the necessity to reveal a truth I might find. 

I truthfully have no forecast for what my infant career will look like in the next few months, even years, and while I am nervous, I am not fearful. There’s something we all want, whether in life or work. Strive enough for it, and you’ll attain it. Maybe I’m only speaking to those who aren’t currently with a guaranteed job or salary, but I hope this relates to those who are lucky enough to have that: if you find yourself being bored with it at any given time, take a risk, do something else you love– something you genuinely care about (that hopefully also helps pay the bills)– and I think there’s never a time that’s too late for that.

Now that I’ve just written a self-help (perhaps a little self-indulgent) blog post, completely unintentionally, I am going to trawl through the list of crap that I’ve left to do last minute, as usual. Note to self: stop procrastinating.


April 24, 2009

what i see//with whom i see

Filed under: blog — nicoletung @ 9:51 pm


p4231696my gothic hangout on the bowery with good wine and great people. 23.04

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