I’ve recently returned from Hong Kong and have written at length about places in and around Hong Kong that I visited. But I’ve held back, until now, on one particular topic – Photographer Viviano Villarreal Bueron, who lives in Hong Kong.
He has traveled to many places in the world and I believe his photographs are exemplary, and worth sharing with you.
On his website you will see the many portfolios of photographs that he has taken in places like Burma, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Indochina, Palawan, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Africa, the Middle East, and even some from his own neighborhood in Sheung Wan in Hong Kong.
I believe that Viviano is attracted to bold colors, and people are his favorite subjects. Most of his photos seem a combination of the two. In many cases, he seems to include both horizontal and vertical objects – not as the optical center of the image but more along the lines of background or secondary items for your eyes to notice, absorb, and reflect upon.
However there are always exceptions. Which is a perfect entry point show you some of his work. I will offer images that I have downloaded from his website, or in some cases – images sent to me by Mr. Bueron.
Let’s start with this Burmese Temples (Burma #31 form the portfolio)
What attracted me to this image was the repetition of the vertical temple spires. In the same way. see the repeated curves of tree tops n the foreground. But what is truly interesting is how the foreground of the tree tops is dark, and as the eye follows into the sky the images brightens. Not only is this a remarkable image, but factor in the changes in the light, and the image becomes even more spectacular.
Africa 13 has an indistinct background. The dull scrub bushes and the dull sky. Then consider the colorful tribal accessories that these women are wearing. Note the individual beads with the rows of four becoming rows of five.
Tibet # 1 is dominated by the red colors. The blanket over the man’s shoulder and the red-washed walls. The sun must be directly overhead judging from the shadows beneath the monk’s foot.
I love the isolated feeling one gets from Tibet # 13. How old must that passage way be? Besides the neutral dirt, and the one-time whitewashed stones – we see just a bit of color slightly off-center. Your eyes seem attracted to the place in the image – almost to the extent that we might miss the fact those small drapes are repeated throughout the image.
Next is my favorite – Nepal # 1. This is an Indian sadhu sitting in a niche in the wall. Notice how the red that you see on this man – his forehead, in his beard, his throat, his hands, and his pants – is almost exactly repeated in the floral tribute to his right. As are the golden yellows. Great image.
In Nepal # 13, you must use your imagination to make this photograph come to life. Image the stillness of the monk as he recites his payers. Then contrast that to what surely must be the utter chaos that surely exists in any gathering of 50 pigeons.
I just love Japan # 01. Besides the brilliant pink color of the child’s kimono, take notice of the crease on her sleeve. Maybe this was a brand new, just-out-of-the-box item for her to wear for a special occasion. She seems to be brimming with life versus the austere stillness of this Japanese Zen Garden.
Staying with ‘brimming with life, the next one was taken in Hanoi, Vietnam. I like the ‘cross directions’ of this image. The fruit-seller stands facing the street (or she is crossing the street against the flowing traffic). The scooters roll by almost non-stop. Such is life in Hanoi where people on bikes, scooters, and motorcycles are ubiquitous.
The next two are from the Middle East Portfolio. This first one might take you a moment for you to determine what you are looking at. This photo (above) is from a spice market in Dubai. Aren’t the colors grand?
The second is a scene from the Dubai waterfront. The shape of the main structure is little more than a clue. I mean it is not immediately clear that these two men are on a boat. What caught my eye was the black rubber tire, used as a bumper when dockside, a portion of the anchor is visible, and is angled in a direction toward that man leaning forward. I also notice the man wears sandals, no socks, and rolls up his pants. Maybe those trousers are a hand-me-down, and the pants are still too long for him.
Next is an image from the Palawan portfolio. The colors are so brilliant. The green of the rice paddies which forms the soft background, and notice the red and blue shirts in the midst. But the most intriguing aspect are the angles of the bananas and the leaves of the banana tree. Up down, horizontal, and vertical. There are so many choices for the eyes.
Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China is the subject of the next photo. I like the angles of this photo and the colors (the blues and red flags). The people sitting behind the boy have the same angle and diminishing perspective as does the imposing structure. The contrast is the vertical boy who is saluting. I’ve stood in that exact spot, and I think the whole point of Tiananmen is to reduce the relative size of all humans. To render individuals as insignificant against the size of the space. It is an immense place – a huge open square dominated by the sheer size of the buildings that surround the open space. Interestingly, Viviano’s photo reverses that and makes the people the most important part of the picture.
I very much like this photo taken in the Sheung Wan neighborhood of Hong Kong. This photo is called Ghost Spirit Altar. What is most fascination is the fusion of concepts in the photo. The triple flames of the burning incense versus the electric flight. The bamboo structures and the electric lfan. Finally the man’s western shirt compared with the traditional and ancient clothing on the Chinese Ghost Spirits that this altar honors.
One More? It is called Monk In The Light. Really, it needs no explanation. There’s an ethereal quality to this image that really goes beyond words. Both physically and spiritually, this is just a beautiful photo.
On October 1st, 2013, Viviano embarked on a project called Looking Far. This project would be a month-long journey across the USA. Viviano, who is an architect, as well as a photographer, has stated that simply taking photos of buildings, or people, results in images that lack personal connections. Obviously buildings do not speak. And with people, usually at best, there is a description of the where and when of the photo, But this is not always the case. Rarely do the subjects in the photos get to say anything.
To establish connections with people, Viviano started handing out polaroids of his subjects. Photos of people, no matter how striking, still lack a connection.
Viviano felt that still more was needed.
So he conceived of Looking FAR. In this case FAR is actually an acronym for Fears, Aspirations, and Regrets. Where ever people are, and what ever their circumstances are – these three things, are universal. We all have them. So Viviano embarked on a journey, by motorcycle across twenty two states in the USA. He describes the project:
Can the Fears, Aspirations & Regrets of seemingly different people unite us? How different are the fears of a Farmer in West Texas and one in California? Are the aspirations of a Brooklyn Hipster and a Mississippi Blues singer roughly the same? What are the Regrets of an Amish Family man and how do they compare to yours? I will be motorbiking across 22 U.S states, documenting people’s lives through these three simple questions. Searching for stories to inform the portraits and essays within the book. A variety of topics will be explored throughout the chapters, such as People & their Possessions, their Ideas, Scars, Tattoos, Art, Work, Passions and more…
The project is nearly completed. Publication will be soon. Once the work is published, I will have an in depth interview with Viviano Villarreal Bueron. Though Looking Far will be a book of photographs, it will also serve as kind of a mirror, and will make us think of our own fears, aspirations, and regrets. and we can all learn from the experience. Watch for it.