This is a little bit later than it should have been posted but my swapping photos partner and I could only meet after the lecture on Friday, so I decided to make more notes on it and post it when I thought everything was ready!
I swapped photos with a graphics student, Jianru who is from Eastern China, I hadn't really met her before but thought it would be particularly interesting for me to learn about a completely different background than I expected to be looking at. When we met, Jianru hadn't quite made notes about my photos yet and asked me about them as we went along. As I was talking I sort of re-affirmed things I had thought about my home life before, and found out a few little things about myself I only just realised. I had written quite a lot of notes about her photos and went through them with her, seeing which I got correct and finding out very interesting things about the ones I got completely wrong and had very interesting stories behind the photos that I couldn't quite figure out how to talk about!
Talking about my photos brought up a lot of emotions in me. Most of my pictures were of myself from when I was about 2-3 and up to about 11 years old, most of them being taken in the countryside where I grew up and most of them are of my dad and I. Jianru unravelled that I was a shy, reserved child, I'm not smiling much in any of my pictures, however I'm very influenced by my dad and he clearly makes me happy. My mum is taking most of if not all of the pictures, which she hadn't quite figured out, but that I have a really good family. My younger brother and I (he's five years younger) were quite close when we were little as a picture shows of him and myself sitting on top of a hill that overlooks our town. There are no pictures of me as a teenager as Jianru pointed out, which I asked my parents about and it's because I'd refuse to have my picture taken..so there is this big gap of my life; apart from the odd photo which I'd claim to hate, missing because I was an awkward teen!
Jianru was in awe of how beautiful the place where I come from is, and I explained that when I was a child it was a great place to grow up, going out to play was all you did. However growing up there as a teenager was a different matter. I sort of realised this when I told her how unhappy I was for most of my high school days there. The school I went to and my brother still goes to is 24 miles away, and where most if not all of my friends lived. I think apart from the fact that I feel so lucky and appreciate my family so much because they're great, and have a nice house, I was a very lonely child/teen.
The minute I got to college, I came out of my shell, I loved being in a city, I'm much brighter and happier than I've ever been. Maybe moving also encouraged my want to travel... So she pointed out that when she met me, I am much different from in my younger pictures. I also told her that my brother was the more confident, louder one who easily made friends. Jianru then asked is it because he is optimistic? Which made me feel...slightly down-hearted, I know I'm optimistic now, a lot more confident than I ever have been, but I know that my brother easily made friends because he was a normal looking skinny little child. I however, was a very over-weight child, too anxious to talk much and ended up caring a lot about what people thought of me. Primary school was also awkward because my mum was a primary teacher when I was there, so that resulted in some bullying. However I did make some very good friends when I went to high school, and I think my love for books and drawing as a reserved person who had problems socialising ended up helping a lot me because now I'm here at art college. So facing difficulties when I was younger has resulted in a lot of happiness in the present! I learnt quite a lot about myself through someone else looking at these photos. And I don't think anyone of my friends now would say I was reserved or very quiet... :)
Jianru's photos: I made quite a lot of notes on her pictures! Perhaps too in-depth, because some things I suggested to her such as in the first picture of her bedroom, which all of her cousins (who I thought were her friends) are sitting on her bed are all wearing very similar sporty/casual looking clothes and I thought she might be very influenced by them. She did say that her and her four cousins are very close and they spend most of their time in each other's company but, in China most people dress this way and that they do not influence each other much in terms of clothing, most people are quite casual unless they are working. She also said that here however is different...a lot of people like their fashion and are dressed up, I can agree with this mostly, especially in the art school!
I said that Jianru's house looks quite modern, which it is and her family have moved about a lot, most houses are modern in China. I suggested that her room was set up for studying or relaxing, she has cream coloured walls, carpets and a sunshine yellow bedspread, the room looks quite calming with a lot of light coming into it. She does her studying elsewhere in another room of the house always, never eats in there and just uses her room for sleeping, relaxing, listening to music. Light is also very to her important in her room. I couldn't see any books or DVDs, but they are tidied away on a shelf that I couldn't see in the picture and she doesn't watch anything in her room. I figured that Jianru is tidy, organised (the photos were given to me stuck into a notebook, I just handed over a pile of loose photos) sensible person. She isn't a girly-girl much at all, apart from the give-away of cuddly toys lined up on her bed-head there aren't many feminine things about her room. The chairs in her room are very old, traditional Chinese furniture which she likes because you can't get many traditional things such as this in China anymore, so she's collecting them. She has posters on her wall which weren't too clear, they looked like models/famous actresses or something of that kind which I thought Jianru may look up to/ may be some inspiration to her, but really she just liked the pictures! Cut-outs from a magazine.
Jianru has one younger brother, the picture she gave me was taken when he had just come back from a school trip to Beijing on the train and he looks extremely happy. I said that all her family may have come to meet him off the train, which they did, and it was a good day because her family is so close and rarely apart that it was a family event that they should go and meet him from his travels. Her family get together and eat every Sunday, including her grandfather and cousins. However her dad is a businessman and works very hard all the time which makes her upset because he doesn't have as much time to spend with the family. She'd like to see more of him.
She has a picture of her cousin's baby which of course she must be very close too being so close to her cousin already, she was the first one to see her after her being born. Talking about this photo she mentioned the fact that you are now only allowed one baby in China which I'd have liked to ask more about but felt slightly awkward about the subject, I'm not too sure what she thinks of this.
Photos 4 and 5 were confusing pictures when I looked at them, because they were of workmen. One up a very tall building hanging by some ropes cleaning windows, and then the other of three workmen outside on a very hot day working on a railway. I asked her if she knew them, if they were related, or if she just admired the workman's bravery who was cleaning the windows because it's so high up?? In fact the reason was that she doesn't think it's fair. These workers are people who have just been to middle school so have laborious jobs, are worked to the bone and aren't paid very much. She also mentions that she took a picture of the three workers because it was so hot outside that day she couldn't believe they were made to be working. They work outside all the time, have no beds to sleep in and I have to say from the photos look very skinny. Jianru feels very strongly about this, hence the two photos. She also says that she studies so hard because she does NOT want to have a job like this. She says that this picture shows that she must face difficulties in life and pass through them to become happier. (sounds familiar!)
From photo 6 which was a picturesque view of some mountains, I maybe thought that she found this picture beautiful, wants to travel more and learn about new places, possibly appreciative of nature and her surroundings. This picture actually has greater significance than I thought. Jianru told me that these are very famous, if not the most, famous mountains in China the 'Huang Shan' mountains. A lot of traditional Chinese stories, probably as children are tales from these mountains, they are inspirational to her. She visited them before she came to Scotland with her mother and brother, and said that is was beautiful, and that the food was really good...I then asked if she wanted to visit more places and she said that she wanted to visit all of the famous mountains in China, and try all the food everywhere, it's very important to her! Hehe, Jianru likes good food :) However she says that preparing food takes a long time in China which is better about being here, but the food isn't so varied. I kind of agree that our traditional food isn't varied much at all, and is kind of lost because we have Indian, Italian, Chinese etc etc restaurants over here which seem to be much more popular than your average meat, potatoes and veg British food...at least for eating out anyway.
Her last photo made me laugh a lot when I first saw it, Jianru has a great sense of humour. It's a mop which has obviously been left lying on the floor for a while to stew and has started growing mushrooms.. I thought she may have chosen this photo to represent what she thinks of lazy people, because I know that hard work is very important to herself, and I know know is extremely important in China. However she says that it was a mop that her and her flatmate found in her student accommodation in China. They had to get rid of it and buy a new one because they hadn't cleaned in a while and they were very disgusted by it! Apparently in China mostly the parents clean and cook in the home, and children only learn how to do this when they move away and have to tackle how to do this themselves through trail and error it seems :) But she says that through moving she has learned on her own how to cook, clean, everything and cannot believe how lazy she must have once been.
From analysing her photos I believe Jianru wants to travel, to learn about different cultures and she is a very open, friendly person. She loves her family, is very close to them, and works extremely hard. She also cares about the environment a lot and explains that if she travels China more she doesn't want to travel by plane but by train because it's better for the environment, she appreciates nature and I could tell that when she looked at my countryside pictures.
It was very interesting to try and figure out another person's history/personality..and very surprising about how much I got right and wrong, also the similarities between us, and the differences which were mainly stemming from two completely different cultures. I did feel a bit uneasy when it came to areas of human rights in China...I felt like I wanted to ask more but didn't quite know how to go about it. Although I'm glad I spoke to Jianru because I've always had an interest in learning about other countries, and lifestyles completely alien to my own so it was a good insight into China and her home life. I think I was half accurate, half completely mislead when analysing these photos, but it was a fun exercise!
I did learn some things about myself I haven't thought about for a while, and had been re-affirmed of things I had thought were true. I didn't feel like I was being judged at all, but felt slightly disappointed when I knew some evidence Jianru found was true but I secretly didn't want them to be.
In China, older people say "If you've wasting time, you've committed a crime" ...I think I need to work harder, from talking to Jianru it has given some motivation want to learn more about this thing called culture.