Are Chinese Kids REALLY More Cute?

I’m sorry this text is not a picture of a cute Chinese baby.

That’ll come later. For now, I want to ask why an American like myself saw and took a bunch of pictures of cute Chinese children. Are Chinese kids really more cute than their Caucasian counterparts (that I see more often)? (By the way, please don’t try to take this post as creepy. That’s not why I’m here.)


The reasons why I have so many pictures of cute Chinese children can be broken into three categories: my bias (reasons 1, 5 and 2-ish), physical characteristics of Chinese children (reasons 2 and 3), and Chinese cultural attitudes w.r.t. children (reason 4).

1. Self-fulfilling Prophecy!

I had heard the cute Chinese child stereotype, so I definitely had my camera ready whenever I saw someone under 4′ 2″. If I went around America looking for cute kids, I bet I’d find a bunch here too.

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This picture shows my constant state of readiness. Camera in hand. On the lookout for cute shit. Ah! Kid jumping! *Snap* [Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China]

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I love how the yellows and greens match from plant to kid. [Pinyao, China] 


2. Bigger Pupils and Eyes

Bigger Pupils: This academic article (oooohhhhh) states that cuter kids have “large eyes and pupils”. This could make sense for Chinese babies given that their rate of dark eyes is greater than in white populations [source] (not to mention the white skin dark eye contrast). This means that the line between pupil and iris is harder to define, leading to more “large pupiled” babies.

Bigger Eyes: This may seem counterintuitive to people like myself who have schooled with the “Asian squinty eyes” stereotype. In fact, this stereotype actually enhances the “big-eyed Chinese child” phenomenon. Like most stereotypes, the “slanted eye” tag is based on truth — an upper eye fold (called the epicanthic fold) is more prevalent in Asia. We are used to seeing this in Chinese adults, labeling their eyes as “small”. Children’s eyes are 75% of their full size [source], but their face is still pretty small (babies have a face-to-cranium ratio of 1:8 while adults have a ratio of 1:2.5 [source]). Therefore children’s eyes are relatively larger w.r.t. their face than they are as adults. This relative eye bigness in Chinese children might affect how often we see their eyes as “big” (as compared to “small” in Chinese adults). A compounding (and somewhat counter-logical to the last point) factor is that the epicanthic fold is harder to see (it’s 75% of its size), so we don’t judge the eyes in the “Chinese adult small” category.

Puss in Boots is a prototypical example of big pupils, BIG cute.

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Those eyes are pure black. Pupil is black. Iris is black. Pupil gets confused with iris. Pupil is perceived as bigger than it actually is. Cuteness up. Viewers win. [Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China]

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Again, pupil-iris conflation ftw. Phone and hand position don’t hurt. [Fenyang, China]

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Bigger eyes w.r.t. face means we don’t see them as “Asian small”, means cuter. Epicanthal folds smaller means we don’t see eyes as “Asian small”, means cuter. [Suzhou, China]


Smaller Noses

The other genetic factor at play here is smaller noses. That same academic article (above) claims that cuter kids are those with “short and narrow features” (using a small nose as indicative of small babyness). Chinese people thought I (and other westerners) were much more attractive because of our 大鼻子 (da bi zi), big noses [Data4Fun]. They said, “Ahhhhh, us Chinese don’t have big noses! We love your big nose!” It’s the classic “want what you don’t have” syndrome (light-skinned people getting fake tans, darker-skinned people wanting fairer skin). For the Chinese, this creates big nose jealousy later in life, but increases cuteness as a baby.

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The pain! Oh, the pain! [Pinyao, China]


Cuter Clothes

Moving away from genetics to culture. Did you see that panda coat two pictures above? So damn cute. The Chinese style of cute works so well on kids.

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Puffball of color. [Fenyang, China]

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Animal leash. Beach hat. Some fly J’s. [Pinyao, China]

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Face isn’t even needed. [Dongguan, China]


Pure Exoticism

The final reason is that Chinese kids are different than American kids. Just like the pull of Imperial Adventures in a movie like Indiana Jones, so too are my eyes pulled by the “other” inherent in Chinese kids (and unavailable to my nephew).

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I don’t know why they are arranging their shoes in a line, but they’re doing it together and I like that. [Pinyao, China]


Until Next Time

Well, I hope I’ve both: 1)  Argued for why Americans take lots of pictures of cute Chinese kids AND 2) Not been racist. Hope you enjoyed this more “source-driven” post (and if nothing else, the cute kids). The part of this post that most excites me personally is the whole “dressing up your kids” thing. Ima have kids. And ima make ’em look funny. And ima post it on the internet. See you then!

– Rhys

Understanding China: Pure People Part 2

People no story = people all story.

Part 1 is here.


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[Place where many Chinese films are shot, Kaiping, China]

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[Shenzhen River Delta, Shenzhen, China]

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[Fenyang, China]

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[Strawberry picker, Yangshuo, China]

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[Batman, Shanghai, China]

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[World’s first bank, Pingyao, China]

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[Harbin, China]

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[Teacher’s Day celebration, Fenyang, China]

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[Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]

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[Pingyao, China]


Until Next Time

6 of these pictures don’t have faces. Backs/posture can be cool too. Hope you enjoyed this post!

– Rhys

Traditionally and Untraditionally Cute Things

The following pictures contain:

1 Puppy

1 Cat

1 Stuffed Animal

1 Blow-up Penguin

3 Dogs

1 Wet Spot of Concrete and 3 Leaves

THEY ARE ALL CUTE.


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The owner had him trained to do this. [Harbin, China]

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Kitty “in the wild”. [Fenyang, China]

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Stuffed animal squished against a car windshield. Love this pic. [Taiyuan, China]

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The Facebook of China, QQ, has a penguin mascot. (This one is 50 feet tall.) [Shenzhen, China]

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Love this pic as well. The top two dogs are so shaggy. There are spots for 9 doggies here. I’m happy the middle dog is not one up (though it would be symmetrical). [Tilamuren Grasslands, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]

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I only take pictures like these when I’m really “in the mode” (i.e. taking pictures of everything). It is cute thought, right? (Right?) [Walking from Dongguan to Shenzhen, China]

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I feel like I just played a sick Rick Roll on y’all. Sorry? [Behind my school’s cafeteria, Fenyang, China]


 Until Next Time

Next time I go on a trip, I’d like to take more untraditionally cute pictures. I like personifying things. Hope you enjoyed this batch!

– Rhys

Understanding China: Pure People Part 1

People are the most powerful tool a photographer has.

Faces, more specifically. It’s a huge contributor to the power of DLSR’s and oof (out of focus). Blur the background + pop the face => great picture.

The pictures today are of people. And they’re of people in a vacuum. Save a small location caption, I haven’t written any text about them. In a way, there’s nothing to write. These pictures don’t fit into Photo Series 1: My Stories From China nor Photo Series 3: Photography in the Abstract. They are categorized in Photo Series 2: Understanding China simply because people combined are culture. They’re here, by themselves, together.


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[Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Suzhou, China]

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[Shanghai Museum of Ancient Chinese Art, Shanghai, China]

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[City Wall, Pinyao, China]

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[Fenyang, China]

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[Macao Musuem, Macao, China]

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[Top of stadium bleachers, Fenyang, China]

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[Xian, China]

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[City wall, Xian, China]

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[Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]

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[Gravestone painter, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]


Until Next Time

It’s nice to write posts like these when I don’t want to think too much. No story construction. No societal arguments. No photographic analyzations. Just pictures. Hope you enjoyed the post!

– Rhys

American Culture, Chinese Style

Yo! Welcome to the 3rd post in Photo Series 2: Understanding ChinaToday, we’re going to look at how different parts of American (and I do mean specifically American, not Western) culture have been translated in China. And we’re going to keep it light, i.e. we’re not going to talk about how capitalism/progress has affected China. That’s later. Translation happens in five ways: exaggeration, idolization, “Yeah, that was a couple decades ago.”, poor execution, and “This could only be China.”

Cool? Cool.


Exaggeration

America is ridiculous (caricature of itself?). China emulates. But sometimes China overshoots the “American-ness”. It’s more understandable when China does so (“you don’t know me!”), but it’s also more funny (for reasons I don’t quite understand).

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The caption says “Don’t be a vegetarian.” 2 brats, 2 patties, 2 buns. 0 lettuce, 0 tomatoes, 0 pickles. Reminds me of KFC’s Double Down. [Suzhou, China]

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“To punish and enslave.” Word. Transformers 4 made $320 million in China and only $240 in America. Multiply that by a PPP of 2.5 and you have a movie that made 3.33x as much in China. That (and this car) is (are) devotion. [Taiyuan, China]


Idolization

Chinese people are all kinds of respectful to their guests. Foreigners are guests. When China is constantly “looking up” to America, an idolization complex begins to occur. Strange example below:

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In a small-large town-city (a good combo to describe Chinese urbanity btw), a jewelry store manager was offering a single US dollar in a lottery giveaway. THE CROWD WAS MASSIVE. I tried to get a good picture that captured the dollar and the crowd but crowds are big and dollars are small and after 15 pictures it was awkward. [Kaiping, China]


“Yeah, That Was A Couple Decades Ago.”

This phenomenon is a pretty well known developed-developing country interaction. For various reasons (geographical distance, decreased cost/desire of old items, blah), American pop culture 25 years ago is found in greater numbers than modern American pop culture. Or maybe China is just retro.

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Kenny Rogers, Backstreet Boys, Usher. All the jams. All in one place. [Hong Kong, China]


Poor Execution

Sometimes though, the love is there. And it’s modern. And it’s not an exaggeration. But ya know, the execution just doesn’t quite get there. Exaggeration is one step too far. This is one step to the side.

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This was in the Chinese version of Disneyland. The “M”, “m” and “i” are still correct I guess… [Shenzhen, China]

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Same theme park as above. High Spongebob is hiiiiggghhhh. The kids love it! [Shenzhen, China]

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A student’s shirt at my school. uu, ee, ee. Jew-stin, buy-ee-beer. I feel like if I was making a shirt, I’d make sure I was spelling everything correctly. [Fenyang, China]

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Basketball! Lakers! Red Bull! Games! It’s got all the right pieces but all the wrong vibes. [Chengdu, China]


This Could Only Be China

These conversions are China-specific. i.e. I never saw this type of conversion in Nepal/India and would be surprised to see it outside of China.

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Green Tea DQ. Unrelated: my foot looks tiny. [Xian, China]

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Pizza Hut pizza. Crust has shrimp and scallops. Delicious? Of course. [Xian, China]

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Creepy Mickey characters populate the family-filled old streets in China. China is particularly comfortable with pushing the non-historical into the historical. Skyscrapers surround temples in Beijing because the people need space to live. Animated characters tromp the cobbled pathways of ancient districts in Xian because the kids need to enjoy the vacation too. [Chengdu, China]


Until Next Time

You know what’s crazy? All of the Chinese in my town thought that Americans all used MSN. M. S. N. I don’t know a single American who uses (or even used) MSN. This is the cross-cultural transmission phenomenon. I don’t know how they came to believe this social media fact, nor do I know how they came to believe that the Spongebob character above should look like he just took a bong rip. But somehow in these ideas were produced in China. It’s worth noting that China is more likely to have these mutations as a result of state-sponsored internet censorship that lessens their connection with America/West/Rest. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Wikipedia, no Youtube. Hell, they don’t even have Bing! In any case, I wish I knew/investigated more about which ideas are more likely to be disfigured/exaggerated/idolized.

Finally, I’d also love to see a Chinese-written “Chinese Culture, American-Style”. The biggest surprise for me was how little rice the Chinese ate. I thought, China –> rice. In fact, only southern China eats rice. Northern China eats primarily noodles. I probably ate rice less than 10 times (out of 6 x 30 x 3 = 540 meals) in northern China.

Hope you enjoyed my first article about the intersection between Chinese and American cultures. There’s a funny translation post coming soon, in addition to one about capitalistic progress. See ya then!

– Rhys!

The World’s Largest Mall is Abandoned

Welcome to the second post in Photo Series 2: Understanding China. Ghost malls are cool. Let’s check ’em out.

Why I Went To This Mall

The summer of 2013, I spent 6 weeks to walk the 500-mile Colorado Trail. I wanted to do something similar in China but instead of walking constant nature, I wanted to walk through constant city. My 100-mile trip looked like this: http://goo.gl/maps/igrrm. Guangdong to Dongguan to Shenzhen to Hong Kong; 4 of the world’s 30 most populous cities (according to this metric). Unfortunately, I got quite sick at the beginning of the route and was only able to walk about 40 miles. Nevertheless, this trip allowed me to see strange attractions that I wouldn’t have seen “on-the -beaten-path”. One of my favorites was the New South China Mall — the world’s largest mall, mostly abandoned.

Paradox

It seems weird, right? The whole point of this walk was to be surrounded by dense urbanity, by people. And here was a massive abandoned mall? Those two don’t quite compute. Another strange aspect of this mall is that it has never been occupied: it’s been 99% vacant since 2005. The ramen noodle billionaire who funded it should’ve kept to noodles.

I arrived at the mall, ate some Pizza Hut until sunset, then went inside. I shouldn’t have explored at dusk. Hot damn it was creepy.

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Essentially the first thing I saw when I walked in. Happiness graffitied out. Note beginning expanse of mall in the background.

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When the lights were still on, they made for this space-like yellow-blue combination. All the escalators had tarps over them, possibly to protect against dirt?

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It wasn’t working. I wonder who (if anyone) was in charge of maintenance.

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The dirt/dust combo was everywhere. These flowers were beautiful once, before they were covered with a centimeter of minuscule debris.

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Piles made. Piles forgotten.

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Organized chaos.

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I hadn’t seen a soul for the last 30 minutes. This car scared the living hell out of me when it drove up. It marks the transition of my time in the mall. A transition from dusk to night, from dusty to the terror of unintentionally uninhabited space.


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Paradise? Disagree.

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Aw hell naw.

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A small fraction of the never used food court tables.

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I don’t like not knowing when this trash was left here.

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New anomalies I’d encounter around every turn in the pseudo-darkness. 

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Always random. Always creepy.

Things Have Changed: This Mall is Indicative of China’s Growth

The situation that I have conveyed above is not entirely true, but rather what I had been told was true: Here exists the world’s largest mall, completely abandoned. My information primarily came from a New South China Mall Wikipedia article. Its most recent citation was from more than three years ago. In the last three years, there has been incredible residential growth in the area surrounding the mall, driving retail growth within the mall itself. When I arrived outside the mall, I saw thousands of people: families playing, security guards monitoring the parking lot, hostesses at the information desk. This wasn’t the post-apocalyptic wasteland I had wanted. Asking around, I learned that nearly 50% of the mall’s spaces were filled! I actually had to search to find the abandoned part. And when I took the elevator from a desolate ground floor up to the top floor, I found a karaoke bar! I asked the bartender why this high-class establishment was located on top of a creepy retail expanse. He responded, “Rent’s cheap.”

The transition of massive Chinese developments from “ghost” to occupied is a theme throughout China. 400 million Chinese have moved into cities in the last 30 years with another 400 million moving into urban areas the next 15. You can’t build houses, retail and public transport once they get there, you need to build it before. That’s why stupid projects like New South China Mall are only stupid on the surface. Before I went to China, I may have argued that the developer should’ve waited three years before beginning construction. But if he would have, who knows how much property and labor costs would’ve risen or whether another developer was eyeing the same opportunity. All that the developer knows is that people will come soon. In China, the classic Field of Dreams quote is reversed. It’s not: “If you build it, they will come.” Instead, “They will come regardless. Build it.

Until Next Time

As always, hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. What a surreal experience, exploring a massive abandoned mall with only my camera flash. Similar to that scene from Saw actually.

Finally, the argument presented here is but one of the reasons for “ghost buildings” in China. Economics are confusing, especially in China where their state-sponsored system is unfamiliar to Americans like myself. One of the most interesting driving factors for mass construction is that investing in property is a great way for the rising middle-class to invest their money. When other outlets like the stock market are too volatile, buying a bunch of apartments around China and letting their value rise (see above) is a good way to beat inflation.

See you next week when I tell my next personal Chinese story.

RL

Exploring the Architecture of Density

This is my first post in my Photo Series 2: Understanding China as explained in my hook post.

A Phenomenon That I Wanted To Take Pictures Of

China has many people. Nearly 95% of them are located in the southeast on 45% of the land mass. However, population density is not unique to China. There are megacities on every continent with higher population densities. It’s the vastness of high population density that sets China apart. During my travels, there were few times that I couldn’t see a clump of high-rise apartments if I turned my head 360 degrees, Exorcist style. I wanted to capture this phenomenon with my camera.

The Most Famous High Population Density Photography

Clearly, high population density photography has been done before, most famously by a man named Michael Wolf in an exhibition named Architecture of Density.

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It’s one of my favorite collections of photography. Each picture is essentially the same as the one above, just with a different set of apartment buildings in Hong Kong. Definitely check out the link above.

Alternate Ways To Capture This Phenomenon

If you know how I operate, you know that I don’t like to do things that have been done before (what’s the point?). I could’ve taken pictures like Michael Wolf’s (albeit less good I assume), but I didn’t want to. Instead, I was excited by the puzzle: Take pictures that enforce Architecture of Density‘s thesis without copying Michael Wolf’s style.

My solutions were: Capture Z Depth, Use Glass Reflection, Emphasize The Hypotenuse, Concentrate on Negative Space.

Z Depth

Wolf’s photography tells us, “Look! x and y are huge!” But he tells us nothing about z, that these skyscrapers are nearly touching others in front and behind them. For “z-Depth” pictures, I tried to show buildings at as many positions as possible. They are most effective when the contrast between buildings is high.

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This picture captures some z depth and also repeating y depth. The roofs of lower buildings are at the same height as the entrance to higher buildings. (This city, Chongqing, is quite hilly.)

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Glass Reflection

Another way to capture is to use a building’s reflection of another building. The pictures below say, “Not only is this tall building here, but there is also another building directly across from it (behind the cameraman).

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Hypotenusing

In Wolf’s pictures of width and height y, we are amazed by how dense x is and how dense y is. Instead of bringing attention to or y, the hypotenuse method brings attention to the hypotenuse of the picture, a longer line that can therefore have more in it (than just or y in isolation).hypotenuse1

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Negative Space

When there are a bunch of tall buildings in tight proximity, the view of the sky becomes a strange geometric shape. I tried to capture this by concentrating on the negative space the buildings create, not the structures themselves.

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Until Next Time

Wolf didn’t leave too much room (zing!) for other angles on the density thesis. Three of my solutions involve the z-axis: Z Depth, Glass Reflection, and Hypotenusing. One of my solutions contradictorily involves the absence of building (Negative Space). I’m honestly not sure how much other photography design space exists here. I’d probably need to live in Hong Kong (like Wolf) to find it.

Hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Drop comments and questions here or on various social media. Do you see other solutions to this puzzle? What’s your favorite picture?