China Underground > China History Images > Analog Alchemy: Captivating Portraits of Heqing’s Chinese New Year

Analog Alchemy: Captivating Portraits of Heqing’s Chinese New Year

Bai Culture in Focus: The Visual Symphony of Heqing

In 2011, during the vibrant and bustling Chinese New Year celebrations, Italian photographer Dominique Musorrafiti embarked on an artistic journey to capture the essence of Heqing, a hidden gem nestled in China’s Yunnan province. Utilizing her array of analog cameras as an explorative tool, she traversed through the local festivities, turning her lenses towards the people, the culture, and the unfiltered beauty of this unique county. Her mission was not merely to take photographs but to encapsulate the spirit and atmosphere of the moment, transforming each frame into a rich narrative of Heqing’s traditional revelries.

Heqing through the Analog Lens_ Dominique Musorrafiti's Photographic Exploration

Heqing, a predominantly rural area located in the Yunnan province of southwestern China, is inhabited mainly by the Bai ethnic group. Notably absent from the urban sprawl of China’s coastal megacities, Heqing represents a different, more tranquil rhythm of life. Its beautiful landscapes, traditional architecture, and rich cultural tapestry provide ample source material for a keen observer. As a cultural haven, it offers an intricate glimpse into the enduring customs and traditions of the Bai people.

Heqing through the Analog Lens_ Dominique Musorrafiti's Photographic Exploration

Rather than using a high-end digital camera, Dominique turned to her collection of analog cameras, including the HorizonKompakt, LC-A+ and Lubitel166+. These cameras, each with their unique characteristics and functionalities, yield distinct outcomes that contribute to the charm of her collection. Moreover, the different types of films used – Red Scale XR, Ektachrome E100VS, Fuji Provia, Klick Max, Lucky Super S200 – and formats – 35mm and 120mm, add further depth and variance to the output.

The HorizonKompakt‘s panoramic format gives the viewer a wide, encompassing vista, not just of the subject but of the broader context. It unveils the beauty of Heqing in a way that feels both intimate and immersive. 

Heqing through the Analog Lens_ Dominique Musorrafiti's Photographic Exploration
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Ektachrome E100VS © Dominique Musorrafiti
Heqing through the Analog Lens_ Dominique Musorrafiti's Photographic Exploration
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Ektachrome E100VS © Dominique Musorrafiti
Heqing through the Analog Lens_ Dominique Musorrafiti's Photographic Exploration
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Ektachrome E100VS © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti

Expired film photography involves the use of photographic film that’s past its “best before” date, often leading to unpredictable color shifts and grainy textures that add a unique, often nostalgic, aesthetic to the images.

Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti
Celebrating the Bai: Dominique Musorrafiti's Analog Encapsulation of Heqing's New Year
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Horizon Kompakt, film: Expired Lucky Super 200 © Dominique Musorrafiti

In contrast, the LC-A+ is esteemed for its capacity to yield vivid colors and saturation. However, when coupled with an expired film, it captures the Chinese New Year celebrations with a unique, retro-washed aesthetic, thereby layering the vibrancy of the festivities with a touch of nostalgia and charm.

Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Klick Max, Tool: Splitzer © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Klick Max, Tool: Splitzer © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Klick Max, Tool: Splitzer © Dominique Musorrafiti

A splitzer in lomography is a camera accessory that allows you to split or segment your photo into parts, each of which can be exposed separately, enabling multiple and overlapping exposures in a single frame.

Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Klick Max, Tool: Splitzer © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Klick Max, Tool: Splitzer © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Klick Max, Tool: Splitzer © Dominique Musorrafiti

Another set of images was captured using Fuji Provia slide film without a flash. These images, distinctly shot under the enchanting veil of nighttime during the celebrations, bring forward a different perspective. The inherent vibrancy of the film, in stark contrast with the enveloping darkness, yielded images that were deeply atmospheric and visually intriguing, capturing the nocturnal pulse of the celebrations.

Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Fuji Provia © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Impressions: Dominique Musorrafiti's Cinematic Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: LC-A+, Film: Fuji Provia © Dominique Musorrafiti

The Lubitel166+, a twin-lens reflex camera, offers sharp, high-contrast images that present Heqing’s landscape and architectural beauty with a sense of gravitas. 

The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti

The Lubitel 166+ is a twin-lens reflex (TLR) medium format film camera, designed by Lomography, that offers fully manual controls, the ability to switch between 120 and 35mm film formats, and a unique, vintage-style aesthetic.

The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti

The light is manipulated and captured in numerous ways. For instance, the warm hues of Red Scale XR impart a sense of nostalgia and timelessness to the scenes of Heqing, imbuing the scenes with an atmosphere that resonates with the enduring traditions and the historical lineage of the locale. Redscale is a photographic technique where the film is exposed from the wrong side, resulting in a dominant warm-hued, red tin.

The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti
The Rhythm of Heqing: Capturing the Bai Community's New Year Celebrations
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Redscale XR © Dominique Musorrafiti

On the other hand, the Kodak Ektachrome E100VS, known for its vivid color rendition, beautifully amplifies the everyday scenes of rural life in Heqing, accentuating the richness and vitality inherent in the small village scattered around the valley.

The employment of an expired Lucky Super 200 film stands out as a particularly interesting choice. While expired films can produce unpredictable results, they are also known to create fascinating color shifts and enhanced graininess. China Lucky Film Corporation, the Baoding-based company founded in 1958, is renowned in the photography world for crafting photographic films that deliver nuanced color reproduction and remarkable image clarity, contributing significantly to the distinctive aesthetic of analog photography. Apart from their esteemed black-and-white and color films in both 120 mm and 35 mm formats, they also notably produce the acclaimed Lucky Charm, a true gem in their collection.

Analog Chronicles: Dominique Musorrafiti's Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Lucky © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Chronicles: Dominique Musorrafiti's Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Lucky © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Chronicles: Dominique Musorrafiti's Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Lucky © Dominique Musorrafiti
Analog Chronicles: Dominique Musorrafiti's Journey in Heqing
Heqing, Yunnan, Camera: Lubitel166+, Film: Lucky © Dominique Musorrafiti

The Bai community, inhabiting the Dali prefecture in Heqing, Yunnan, fervently safeguards its language, customs, and cultural traditions, taking immense pride in their distinct heritage. Recognizable architectural styles, beautifully preserved in Heqing, echo their profound historical roots and serve as testament to their cultural vitality. For anyone keen on delving into the rich tapestry of Bai culture, Heqing emerges as an unmissable destination.

Among the myriad traditions the Bai people cherish, the Dragon Dance, performed during the Chinese New Year – China’s paramount festival – stands out. This animated spectacle symbolizes jubilant festivities and carries profound implications for the coming year. A deep-rooted belief exists among the locals that the Dragon Dance ushers in a year replete with luck and prosperity, helping to fend off any potential misfortunes.

Respect and admiration abound for the dancers, the custodians of this tradition. Their skills are acknowledged through invitations from families and businesses alike, seeking to host the Dragon Dance as a harbinger of good fortune. The Dragon Dance thus evolves into a community event, connecting different generations and nurturing a sense of collective identity.

Moreover, the Bai community’s dedication to preserving the Dragon Dance for posterity underscores their commitment to their cultural legacy. This elaborate performance demands practice and seamless teamwork, offering an engaging way for the older generation to maintain their active participation in the community. Through the rhythmic undulations of the Dragon Dance, the Bai people articulate a shared reverence for their forebears while projecting their collective aspirations for a prosperous future. Thus, the dance serves as a cultural conduit, linking past, present, and future in a vibrant display of community spirit and resilience.

Topics: Analog Photography in Yunnan, Bai People’s New Year, Chinese New Year Celebrations in Heqing, Dragon Dance Tradition in Bai Culture, Heqing’s Cultural Heritage Preservation, Dominique Musorrafiti’s Analog Photography Techniques, Traditional Celebrations Captured in Analog

Last Updated on 2023/05/20

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