Monday, 5 September 2011


The Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest Chinese community outside Asia, according to Wikipedia. This city-within-a-city was established in the 1840s. Chinatown is now a major tourist attraction, but somehow it doesn't seem to rub off on the locals. Or maybe it does.

Chinatown is like a cultural labyrinth-within-a-labyrinth, and it's downright impossible to understand anything as a tourist. However, life among the numerous shop attendants seems a bit harder than San Francisco at large.

Of course, Chinatown has a history of gang violence and shoot-outs. It also has the meat on display (which never fails to surprise me in poor countries, as if we Westerners were all vegetarians).

I've been intimidated by shop attendants for years. It's their passive-aggressive undertow of not getting a sale that somehow gets me, since I never really buy anything.

But I'm fascinated by the vacant look in some shop attendant's eyes, when they're unaware of customers watching.

I started this project of taking pictures of bored shop attendants in Chinatown, but soon had to abort the idea. I felt bad about it, for several reasons. Mainly because they were so service-minded that just a hint of a customer was enough to wake them up from the trance. I'll have to pursue this theme somewhere else.