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This gentleman sits with patience in a vestibule within the vast Forbidden City complex. Visitors to the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing often bustle past the tiny spaces tucked into the site’s 114 buildings. Seeking more spectacular tourist-drawing attractions, they miss the gorgeousness of this man, this moment of timeless waiting.

It strikes me how much we now lack the idea of simply being; of settling in and resting in the life of the mind. His hands are released, his gaze is soft, he is so gloriously human. Inside, his blood is swirling, his breaths move in and out, he blinks, swallows. But externally, there was only a sense of peace as I looked, waiting with him for the best moment to make an image.

I had my 4×5 camera, which in itself can’t be rushed. I have to execute the bellows and determine how to handle the light. For several minutes, I moved the folds that are like an accordion to bend the light to the way I wanted it. I considered also the colors, from the lacquer red of the column that is unyielding to those soft golds and embracing browns to the sturdiness of the green/grey of the lower stone walls behind him. The light cast shadows on the floor that mirrored the castle’s beauty. Spilling across the floor and also transient, the lattice-like interplay shifted and I knew it was fleeting.

With so many details to look at, my eyes always returned to his hands and that slightly elevated left foot. There is in each element a sense of potential: Will his feet plant and he will stand and move away? Will a hand lift in greeting to me or to a person he is waiting for? For this moment, he’s content to be still. Be present, be here, be now, he tells me, although not a single word passes between us.


18 x 24 inches (45.72 x 60.96 cm)

24 x 32 inches (60.96 x 81.28 cm)

30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

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