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American film maker finds Guangzhou photo-worthy

By Huang Chenkuang; Owen Fishwick (eguangzhou.gov.cn)Updated : 2017-04-19

An American freelance film maker is using traditional photography to capture modern life in Guangzhou.

Matthew Szechenyi, from Illinois, arrived in the Guangdong capital 18 months ago to teach art at the renowned AIP(Art International Program) school, and quickly began exploring the city and its rich history.

Picking up an old Bronica medium format camera and several rolls of film from a local market, Szechenyi began snapping away at life passing around him through the frame and eyes of an outsider.

"My portraits capture the personality and environment that a person is at," Szechenyi says. "I feel like sharing a moment of connection with the people I take photos of." 

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A Kecun man is capture mid-puff as he plays his tuba in the street. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It's not the first foreign foray for the photographer, having previously travelled to Cambodia, India, and Japan.

Having a truly global CV, Szechenyi has worked for the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, clothing retailer American Apparel, as a photographer for the Hanmi Gallery in London, and directed the promotional film "Give Voice to a Dream" for charities in India and Kenya. 

Just like Guangzhou itself, which combines its rich 2,200-year-old history, with the cutting edge modernity of the Canton Tower, Szechenyi chooses to use traditional film stock for his photos, which he develops and then scans to create digital prints. 

"Compared to highly industrialized technology, I prefer more traditional ways to photograph or film, which gives me more free room for creation," Szechenyi says.

"Today people are lacking connection with strangers because the over use of phones so I try to break down that social wall with my camera which is old technology."

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A textile worker in Xiaozhou village just outside of Guangzhou, takes a break to play with a cat. [Photo by Matthew Szechenyi]

What started as just a hobby has turned into a pet project delving into the lives of locals and bringing Guangzhou culture into focus.

Guangzhou has long been a melting pot of internationalization and China's window to the world. And walking around a city with such a depth of history and culture gives Szechenyi plenty to place within the lens. 

So far caught on the 33-year-old's celluloid include Guangzhou hotspots such as its antiques and food markets, museums, the Haizhu Square building complex, as well as several traditional factories in nearby Foshan.

As to his long-term goal in Guangzhou, Szechenyi says his key ambition is to take more photos and short videos to capture real life in Guangzhou and share their stories with others.


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Matthew Szechenyi, 33, from Illinois in the US, captures a monk  on a stump during a trip to Cambodia. [Photo by Matthew Szechenyi]