The Story Behind the Image - Ilya

18 April 2015

Region: London

The Lotus Root Seller, Chengdu

By Ilya Fisher

This is a photo I took 18 months ago on a dream trip to China, a gastronomic tour. I love it, it’s a bit about food (those are lotus roots) but more about the man. Sitting there day after day selling his lotus roots, this picture might sum up his life and explain his dreamy expression. Or it may not. I think he has a bit of the Humphrey Bogart about him.

And this picture is also so much more. I’ve taken snaps all my life, determinedly recording the passing of time, friend and family events. But it wasn’t until I borrowed a decent compact camera – a Sony Cyber-shot WX300- and went to China that I got the idea that maybe I could do more than just snap, and get more out of photography than simply memories.

Being such a rookie, I thought that if I set the camera to the smallest sized images, I would be able to get more on my memory cards, not realising that image quality would be so seriously compromised. This lotus root seller and all the other 2000 images I took in those two weeks are each around 2.5MB. Heartbreaking, as they can’t be printed to any decent size. So I jumped at the chance to show one here, as on the internet resolution can be so much lower. I have learnt a lot since then and moved on from the compact camera, but my handsome lotus root seller was the start of it all.

Image © Ilya Fisher

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Comments (3)

25 April 2015

I have not had lotus roots for a long time. My Mum cooks them in soups. Your image evokes sensory memories from a long time ago, as I hardly eat Chinese food when away from Hong Kong.

Someone said the best camera is the one you have. We can always trade up. Even the iPhone 6/6+ camera is more powerful and versatile than the Sony Cybershot you used all those years ago.

Great capture Ilya. I also love your recent work with people not looking into the lens. They are poignant and give me a feeling as if I was there at the events.

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Elena Garcia
21 April 2015

Beautifully composed. Love the colours, perspective and narrative.

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Emily Mathisen
21 April 2015

Don't worry, that is such a common mistake sizing the images too small, I also did that when I first moved over to digital! It is still a lovely image and evocative to both us seeing it for the first time and you in that it still captures the memory of being there for you so well. Imagine if you didn't have it at all! Thanks for sharing it - I really enjoyed the image and your accompanying text.

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