Chinatown: Foreign and Familiar At Once

Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto

 

For the Chinese diaspora spread across the world throughout history Chinatowns became a ‘soft landing’ in a strange land; areas outside of the homeland where Mandarin and Cantonese were spoken, traditional medicines and cooking ingredients were found, and cultural festivals were celebrated. More negatively, and particularly in the West, they also originated out of necessity as a refuge from xenophobia and exclusionary political acts. These complex neighbourhoods make for fascinating examples of migration and globalisation; of community and commerce. Today, the majority of Chinatowns are likely to be pan-Asian, and many are being established by developers as ready-to-go strip malls.

However well-established, and wherever in the world, Chinatown is always a layered sensory experience: the signage, sights and sounds can change instantly just by crossing the street and passing through the paifang. It’s exciting. For those who didn’t grow up in the community, it’s an almost wholly foreign experience within the familiarity of your home town. It’s rich ground for street photography.

With all this in mind, Casimir presents a unique group photo essay. We’ve invited 8 photographers to shoot the Chinatowns in their cities. We’re interested in seeing how photographers who live so far away from each other approach a similar subject.

We start in the oldest Chinatown in the States in San Francisco, then head down to Johannesburg in South Africa, across to Australia’s oldest Chinatown in Melbourne and on to Singapore, where the name ‘Chinatown’ is said to have first originated. The next stop is at the oldest Chinatown in the world, Binondo in Manila, established in 1594. The Chinatown in Bangkok was founded at the same time as the city itself in 1782. Next is the largest Chinatown in Europe in Paris before we head back to North America to Toronto.

In the collection you’ll find what you’d expect from Chinatown: glossy peking ducks hanging in windows, dragon fruit and fresh seafood on display, neon signs in Chinese letters and red paper lanterns. But each also hints at the greater city it is part of: the grit of Paris, the immaculate streets of Singapore, dollar signs on prices in San Francisco, and the South African snack of choice, biltong, hung up to dry out in the sun. Similarly each photographer brings their own style to the greater story.

 

San Francisco, USA

Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco
Matthew Reamer, Chinatown, San Francisco

Matthew Reamer is a Baltimore-born photographer living in San Francisco and travelling often. He is currently on a return visit to Monrovia, Liberia shooting for education NGO More Than Me. His photo book ‘Disco Fire’ covers a road trip from California to Alabama. Other projects cover music-related fandom, American sub cultures and documentary-style commercial work. Nike, Converse, Levis and Google are just some of the brands Matthew has shot for.

www.matthewreamer.com

 

Johannesburg, South Africa

Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg
Themba Mbuyisa, Chinatown, Johannesburg

Themba Mbuyisa is a young photographer from Johannesburg who has recently been named Elle magazine’s 2016 Style Reporter, and one of Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans to watch. His photography spans fashion, portraiture and street photography.

memoryquai.tumblr.com

 

Melbourne, Australia

Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne
Tess Bukowsky, Chinatown, Melbourne

Tess Bukowsky is an Australian photographer currently based in Melbourne but most of her photography has been shot on trips overseas. Her largest body of work and its resulting solo show, Come Unto Me, was shot along the bible belt in the USA while she was living there. Her travel and landscape photography reaches from Cambodia to Fiji, Norway to Mexico.

www.tessbukowsky.com

 

Singapore

AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore
AikBeng Chia, Chinatown, Singapore

Also known as ABC, Aik Beng Chia is known for his gritty street photography which provides a glimpse into the daily lives of Singaporeans. His first published photo book¬†Tonight The Streets Are Ours covers Singapore’s Little India district. On Instagram, ABC is a contributor to @everydayasia and @wearethestreet. His project¬†‚ÄúSingkarpor‚Äù is another ongoing documentation of his home city.

www.aikbengchia.com

 

Manila, Philippines

Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila
Joy Celine Asto, Chinatown, Manila

Joy Celine Asto is a film photographer and writer from Manila. She is a former Senior Writer and Editor for Lomography Magazine and the current Travel Editor for Whattaroll Magazine, a publication about analogue photography.

joycelineasto.com

 

Bangkok, Thailand

F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok
F Sections, Chinatown, Bangkok

F Sections is a small production team in Bangkok, Thailand. Their creative photographic services focus on¬†product, food, architecture, interior, and editorial photography. The team shoots some of Bangkok’s most beautiful restaurants and their editorial work is often found in Wallpaper magazine.

www.behance.net/fsections

 

Paris, France

John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris
John Karsenty, Chinatown, Paris

John Karsenty is a French photographer, born in Paris, who has spent time living in London, Berlin and Melbourne. He has worked for brands like Chanel and Burberry doing reportage style photography and videos.

johnkarsenty.tumblr.com

 

Toronto, Canada

Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto
Mark Sommerfeld, Chinatown, Toronto

Mark Sommerfeld is a self-taught photographer based in Toronto. From here he travels to wherever he can. His recent photo book ‘For Now’ is a collection of photographs¬†created over the last four years across 18 cities in three countries.

www.mark-sommerfeld.com

 

Find more photo stories on Casimir or send us your own.

 

Thank you to all the photographers involved for sharing their time and talent to take us around the world.

 

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