Mapopo: A farm amid Skyscrapers

mapopo_farm_01      Mapopo Community farm sits unassumingly beside a busy road in Fan Ling, a town in the New Territories of Hong Kong. At the entrance to the farm is a small stand selling fresh vegetables, locally made body products, a number of imported organic dry goods, and a few varieties of craft beer.

     If you follow the blue line on the paved path, it will take you through the village, called Ma Shi Po, to a wide cloudy river where young men fish from a 100 meter bridge. The village is comprised of small farms where elderly women hoe new roes in the dirt and elderly men ride past on bicycles stocked with seeding flats. I met a number of friendly dogs and goats beside the path who roamed together in a grassy field. At the end of the blue line I watched two young men catch fish in a net beside a sign that stated “no fishing” then headed back the way I came to buy some Choi Sum and Bak Choi at the Farmstand. There are a number of farms like this in Fan Ling that I intend to stop at next time I have a day to spend in the ‘countryside’ where there are still 14 story in plain sight.

     Mapopo is engaged in a fight with Hong developers who have forcefully removed villagers in the past, and intend to do so again. The plots where forced evictions occurred are overgrown and vacant. Mapopo hopes to preserve the 3rd generation farming village of Ma Shi Po despite developers plans to build more standard housing on the ground they have made rich with years of composting and sustainable farming practices. Only 7 square kilometers of land in Hong Kong are made up of actively farmed land, Mapopo says they simply want to keep their small part of that to preserve the lifestyle they have worked hard to keep.


Nan Lian


     Nan Lian in Diamond Hill is an ideal traditional Chinese garden with immaculately kept grounds, golden roofed temples, and a tea house that sits over a quaint pond adorned in Lilly pads. I went to the garden just before sunset, as the light was streaming in perfectly, lightly dusting every surface with gold. I haven’t taken photographs  of anything other than people in a while, and this was the perfect place to stray from that and go back to the way I shot when I was younger, with a simple sense of wonder towards my surroundings, not exactly looking for a moment but rather for a composition that was interesting to me all on its own.


Brunch with Ayalet


Now and then on Sundays on Lamma Island, a very special aroma of cardamom and pomegranate fills the air of the overgrown patio of Ayalet and Jack’s home. I was recently fortunate enough to experience the richness and flavor of Ayalet’s Israeli home cooking in a multi-course family style brunch.

My other half and I met a few other guests on the way to Ayalet’s, winding down a narrow path along Lamma’s less visited North coast. When we arrived we were greeted with iced tea served in small intricately painted cups and a ragged soccer ball being nudged at our feet by Ayalet’s enthusiast pup. Dishes of fresh hummus, labneh, and onion bread still warm from the oven began to fill the table as Jack poured kava for the guests.

When the shakshuka came to the table, Ayalet and Jack joined us. The nine of us sat around the table enjoying one another’s company, the exquisite fare and strong Turkish coffee. Before we knew it, five hours had gone by and it was time to take the ferry back to Central. I grabbed a second ma’amoul (a small cookie filled with dried fruit) and began the walk back to Yung Shue Wan with the rest of the guests. It was an authentic, relaxing, and delicious experience, and I look forward to the next time.


MLK – Seattle – 2016


    In Seattle, Martin Luther King Day bands people together in a manner that I rarely see in our self-proclaimed “introverted” city. The group vigor of the marches surpasses the enthusiasm I have observed in Seattle in any other context. This year I asked a number of attendees what they would like to see tangibly change by this day next year.


     Dan Chicoli –  “If one thing were to substantially change by next Martin Luther King Day, I think we should implement very strong citizen oversight over the police force. This killing with impunity, with absolutely no consequences, it seems to be getting worse, although it’s always been back. It’s outrageous. When people think of black violence, there are a lot of issues that pertains to but police brutality is just out of control in this country and I think most people seem to agree.”

MLK_2016_0003MLK_2016_0004MLK_2016_0005MLK_2016_0006MLK_2016_0007     “Monica Washington – I would say more accountability all around. Law makers, schools, the way we teach, the way we structure our systems, there is no accountability. It’s like the people who set it all up have an agenda and no one holds them accountable for their agenda, but they package it all up to look like it’s something that it’s not. To see this happening in the justice system is unfortunate because it is supposed to be a sort of moral center and we see that it isn’t and people around the world see it that we don’t practice what we preach in this country.”

           “Aramis Hamer – I would like to see more accountability, especially in our justice system. If you obviously have things on camera that show that black boys are being murdered and policemen are walking free, that’s a major issue. And what’s sad is that it’s been going on for years, before iphones and cameras put it in our faces and made it more obvious, but not it’s just a slap in the face the way that people don’t seem to care. So, whatever law structure and literature is letting murderers walk free, that needs to be changed.”


Aquea Harris – “If I could see one thing really change it would be how the media views black women



     Jeff Chrisman – “I think the most significant thing that could happen would be electing Bernie Sanders. He is directly in line with Martin Luther King’s philosophy, and what we’re lacking in our recognition of Dr. King has to do with economic justice and I think electing someone like Sanders would be huge for Black Lives Matter, and for every movement you can think of that’s current, he’s on top of it.”


“Blin Mohamed – I want there to be an end to racism in sight and for us all to stop Islamaphobia.”

   ” Win – I hope that people begin to treat each other more equally no matter what race they are.”


Goldfish Street

Goldfish__01      In Mong Kok, on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, there is a street called Goldfish street. On Goldfish street vendors have been selling tropical fish, aquatic plants, and aquarium supplies to Hong Konger and foreigners alike since the 1970’s. The dealings started as a makeshift market a few blocks from what is now Goldfish central, then evolved into a more permanent collection of shops that have clearly established themselves. The 2007 and 2008 Grand Champions of the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest both have storefronts on Goldfish Street. In the 80’s and 90’s Hong Kong was in the top five exporters of tropical fish.

In Chinese culture goldfish are believed to bring good luck. The resulting tradition of keeping them in the home has brought substantial success to the goldfish trade. Another factor is the limited amount of space Hong Kong residents usually have in their homes. In apartments where a cat or dog would be a spacial hindrance, an attractive fish is a popular alternative. Some Hong Kong residents are concerned regarding the future of Goldfish Street. There was once a “Bird Street” but it vanished in the wake of modernizing changes to the Mongkok neighborhood, and some believe Goldfish Street is next. The business of the market today does not lend itself to such worries.


Work | Kowloon

     In Hong Kong I frequently noticed that the many outdoor markets and makeshift mechanical shops were overwhelmingly run by elderly people while the most strikingly affluent parts of the city were crawling with young people donning business suits and briefcases. I started to wonder if the old world trades such as running outdoor markets and makeshift metal shops are up for a generational turnover, who would be filling those shoes, and whether or not familial trades are still as sturdy as they once were. I spent 2 days in neighborhoods Mongkok and Tai Kok Tsui where I interviewed a number Hong Kongers including metal workers, market vendors, and a Chinese Doctor. Here is what they had to say.


Mr. Chu

“We repair engines here and work with spare parts. My father taught me to do this when I was around 20 years old.

My daughter works here. My son in law does as well, and I treat him like a son. We are a family here and I think we’re all happy to work together.

I like the challenge my work gives me. I have to keep learning.”

Work_M__02Work_M__03Coco – 22

     I help my father here because he’s getting older and he’s been working since he was 17 years old so I want to make things easier for him. I think he will retire in 10 years or so, and maybe then I will continue to work with my husband and we’ll take over the business.


Timmy – 22

      I’ve been working here for only about 3 months. My father in law taught me how to repair engines. I was a chef before. It’s okay here. It is my wife’s family business and I want to help out and keep an eye on her because as you can see, she is very pregnant.

     My parents run a business in Mexico, and they recently migrated back to Hong Kong. I think I will be here for 10 years or so. We might take over the business but I’m not sure, we’ll see about that.

     It’s kind of neat the work that we do, I like the welding part. It really takes time for you to learn every single piece of the the job, and to get each thing right. My father in law is an expert. He’s been doing this for over 35 years.


Mr. Hang

I’ve been doing this for 60-some odd years, I started when I was 13. It was a job I found as a kid and then I kept doing it. I wouldn’t say I am passionate about it but working at the market has been a good profession. I should be retired, but it’s just what I’ve always done so I’m still here. When I first started it was tough because I was just learning but now it’s easy for me. I do not think my children are not interested in doing what I do, they have other professions and they seem to like where they are.

This market has been here for 27 years. There was another market in it’s place before that and they tore it down and built a new one, but they gave the old shop owners a space in the new building. Most of my customers live around here so I see them all the time and we know each other well. I like it that way.


Chinese Doctor – Mr. Wong

I have been a Chinese Doctor for almost 40 years. I do consultations and make medicines. My grandfather and my father were Chinese doctors so I didn’t really do it because it was my passion but more so because it is a profession I respect. Usually the people I treat are people I know so it feels good to be of service to my community. Nothing too crazy happens here. I treat my patients and go about my day.

When you treat somebody and you are able to cure the symptom they came to you for, it feels gratifying. When my last patient first came to me he was coughing a lot and now the cough is gone so this is a good day. Unfortunately, sometimes people come to me with a very complicated problem that I cannot treat so I have to send them to the hospital so they can receive Western medicine.

[He insisted he comb his hair before the picture was taken.]


Mr. Ng

I do metal work for machinery. I followed in my fathers footsteps, he taught me how to do metal work. I have 3 sons and 1 daughter, and my oldest son works with me but the others have entered other professions. My eldest and I, we get along. I think because he does this with me our lives are more relatable.


Tsukiji Fish Market

Fish_Market_01                                                                                                                                                                          Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest fish and seafood market in the world. The bustling starts at 3am with the unloading of trucks and unpacking of extremely fresh seafood. The live auction begins at 5:20am and ends around 8. Only 120 visitors per day are allowed to observe the auctions. At various times visitors have been banned altogether. Gigantic frozen pieces of tuna are cut with band saws while fresh fish are sliced with sword-like knives over a meter long. Walking along the narrow paths from stall to stall between people prepping, marking, packing, and inspecting, my attention was completely absorbed in the excitement of it all.




      Tokyo is a place of wonder. Never in my life have I been to a city where the words respect and order came to mind so often in a day. My admiration of the beauty and kindness of the city was stoked as I watched a man bow in gratitude to the barista upon receiving his coffee. From quaint flower shops to book stores purely devoted to vintage photography to delicious espresso carefully poured into porcelain, I was in a constant state of pleasure. Then there were the stranger sides of Tokyo, Akihabara with its video game dens, cat cafés and multi-level sex shops, one of which did not allow women past the second floor. It was pure stimulation.

       In Piss Alley we ate at an Eel stand that has been there since 1948.  We went on a ramen bender that led us to chains with private dining stalls where the servers never see you and your ramen is passed through a bamboo curtain. It is a city of  tastes, sights and smells. The streets were remarkably quiet at night for being in the largest metropolitan area in the world. On our last day in the city we encountered a very orderly demonstration themed: No War! Only Peace! Our 7 days in Tokyo fixed Japan in my mind as a country that I intend to spend a significant amount of time in throughout my life.



















Wan Chai

Wan_Chai_01 “Contrast” this was what Chris and I dubbed our attempts to do things differently and not simply stick to the things we knew and liked while we were in Hong Kong. We spent 25 days in Sheung Wan then decided to mix up our HK experience by moving to another neighborhood four subway stops away. At the bottom of Happy Valley, Wan Chai is a very wet neighborhood steeped in liveliness. In the past it was nick-named Hong Kong’s red light district. I wouldn’t have guessed from my experiences there, but I was not out and about late into the night. Not every image in this post was taken in Wan Chai, some are from nearby places like Aberdeen and Central that we walked to during our contrast stint in Wan Chai. Wan_Chai_02Wan_Chai_03Wan_Chai_04Wan_Chai_05Wan_Chai_09Wan_Chai_12Wan_Chai_15Wan_Chai_16Wan_Chai_17

Fioravanti – Dressmakers

Fiavoranti_0001     Fioravanti is a couture clothing store and studio in Beacon Hill where Mia Fioravanti and her daughter Wysdom design and sew pieces meant to endure. “I am not interested in trends.” Says Mia. “I think it’s important to be on some sort of trend so that your stuff is relevant and modern and someone will want to wear it. The thing about us is, we are much more interested in something that lasts. That is one thing I have always tried to stay true to.”Fiavoranti_0002     Their studio is filled with pieces that have a timelessness about them, from classic sleeveless black dresses to sheer navy ponchos and impeccable white button-downs.Fiavoranti_0003     The duo will soon be moving to a space down the street on Beacon Ave. where they will quadruple their space. “We are looking to create more of a lifestyle store rather than just clothing, so we are going to have other people’s work, we’re going to have events, and I’m looking for artists, photographers, people like that who want to do shows. I have three people slated to do shows and art openings once a month, so it’s going to be a much more dimensional kind of place.”Fiavoranti_0004     Mia Fioravanti taught herself to sew at age 8. Daughter to a father who ran a woolen mill in the Midwest, Fioravanti was introduced to the family business lifestyle at a young age. “I went to art school and was doing graphic design and advertising, and I hated it so I went back to sewing.” While working with a dry cleaner in Denver, Fioravanti brushed up on her sewing skills, then spent a year apprenticing with a woman from Russia who specialized in couture. With intermittent careers as a stylist and a Waldorf teacher, Fioravanti is now running her business on Beacon Hill with her daughter Wysdom, who graduated in May with a bachelors degree in technical design.

“As far as fashion goes, that’s kind of a funny word to define, but I feel that I’ve always been a dress maker. I’ve always done lots of couture work, that’s my background – making everything kind of hand made and now we have a manufacturer who’s doing some of the work and we’re doing some of the work.

I don’t know where we’re heading with all of that but we kind of pride ourselves on being part of slow fashion and slow clothing, kind of similar to slow food, we want to do creative work, but we also have a baseline. We have a line of clothing and then from there we’re doing some one-of-a kind pieces, or three-of-a kind.”Fiavoranti_0009Fiavoranti_0014     Wysdom grew up around design and sewing then went on to study the more technical side of the craft. “I’m trying to get experience but I’m also leading the technical part because she [Mia] is not very technical. That’s a challenge, because I don’t know everything, I just know a little bit. Coming straight from school and jumping into this business is pretty major, but it has allowed me to do so much. Working with pattern making, making things from scratch and seeing something finished that I made the pattern for, is pretty amazing.”

Mia freely expresses the benefits of working with someone who has a different background than herself. “I’m not interested in doing this by myself anymore. At one time I was like, ‘I’ll just do it all’, and it just doesn’t work. There has to be collaboration. I feel like when Wysdom came along it was right on time because I don’t know how much longer I would have been able to sustain it by myself. We have a really great team effort going on here, and it’s been really great having a person coming right out of school who has fresh perspectives and fresh ideas, and is from a different generation, you know, it’s very important.”Fiavoranti_0018           The Fioravantis are quite the creative household. Their oldest daughter Julia is an artist as well and often models the Fioravanti line. Their closeness as a family and common ground as artists eliminates the need to sugar coat their opinions about one another’s work. Wysdom says of working with her mother, “She has more super creative craziness sometime and I’m more of the editor. I say no a lot, and it works because we’re family so we can be honest. We care about each other’s feeling but we get over things really quickly.”

Likewise, Mia says Wysdom often makes their work stay true to the idea. “I feel like I’m being parented sometimes, but it’s okay, because Wysdom’s got a lot of grounding and I don’t, so this way we stay on track. It’s good to have someone really different from you who holds you accountable.”

The Fioravanti’s shared reverence for the combination of good design and artistic sensibility shows in their work. “When you’re coming from a design point of view rather than a trend point of view, that is a guiding principle, so, no matter what you do, it is relevant if you’re coming from a good design and understanding the artistic composition. Composition is composition. There are rules to it and if you master them and you understand them, then you can break the rules and start making your own.” Watching the two work together in their studio, it seems that Wysdom may be teaching her mother new rules, but that Mia is undoubtedly passing on the invaluable artistry of a lifetime of dressmaking.