Monday, April 7, 2014

People Who Wanted to Take Their Photograph With a Foreigner in Zhanjiang

People I don't know asking me if I would pose in a photo with them has been a semi-regular experience in China, particularly in regions where there are few foreigners. As some other foreigners in China could readily report, these experiences are not unique to me. But similar to the stories I shared of Chinese being friendly to a foreigner in China, I don't think all of these requests were made only because I was a foreigner, and all foreigners would not have had the same experience. As before, "there are many complexities".

Yesterday in Zhanjiang's Xiashan District, I received many more requests than any other day in Zhanjiang despite visiting some of the same places I have visited several times before. I have no doubt my behavior and appearance at any moment can impact whether people either want or are willing to make a request. But based on my conversations with some of the people I met, I suspect the primary reason for the increase was related to people having extra time off due to the Qingming Festival and more people visiting from parts of Zhanjiang where foreigners are even more uncommon.

I would like to delve into some of the "many complexities" regarding these requests and what they may indicate (and not indicate). But for now I will simply throw some color on the topic by sharing photos of all the people who asked me if I would pose in a photo with them today and yesterday in Zhanjiang. Although some of what I see represented in the photos feels typical to me, such as receiving requests from both males and females, I would caution against making any China-wide generalizations based on the people in these photos. For example, in Zhanjiang a higher than typical percentage of requests have come from high school students.

In all of the cases below, I was not the first person to initiate contact, and they made their request before I asked if I could take a photo of them, which always received a positive reply. The photos are presented in chronological order, and the locations were all in / near parks or popular shopping areas.

Finally, yes, I have some photos with me included. Turning the tables can be revealing. But I don't think readers need or want to see 10 photos of me. For me, this phenomenon primarily represents yet another window through which I can better understand China. I am not the point.

So here are some of the people in China who recently introduced themselves to me in Zhanjiang:

a boy and two girls in Zhanjiang

three women and four men in Zhanjiang

a couple in Zhanjiang

four high school students sitting on a bench with a lake and a ferris wheel in the background in Zhanjiang

two men in Zhanjiang

two young men in Zhanjiang

two young women in Zhanjiang

two young men wearing shirts with creative designs in Zhanjiang

three young women in Zhanjiang

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