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Guilin's Secret Opera | Andy Beales
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Guilin Opera

Guilin opera, two words I had not heard, despite living in Guilin for years. I came across it in my second year when I took a meander with my camera  to a local tea shop, before wondered to my ‘go to place’ for photography, right in the heart of Guilin city. It’s an area of Guilin few locals even know about, let alone go to. In and around a Chinese traditional medicine market is a subculture of flee markets, caves, makeshift tents, retired card sharks, medicine producers, street doctors, and even a Buddhist temple. The area has a smelly river and locals growing vegetables in the opposite fields next to a local food market. In the mist of all this is a small community of artists, a photogenic world, a precious gem. It’s a rare place to enjoy photography within the Guilin city area.

Guilin’s Amateur Community Opera House

Every weekend this 1930’s community hall packs full of elderly people as the local community puts on a their unique type of opera, Guilin opera. These people are some of the friendliest I have ever met in Guilin. Artistic Chinese people are a photographers dream, they are so friendly, it’s so easy to make a connection. I first discovered this community hall in 2011, because I lived a stone throw away. As a photographer their is something in me that seems to just want to wonder, take the small grubby streets, walk the alleys and backstreets, and it’s what led me here.

In this feature I decided to see what an older camera with a fixed lens could do, I took my trusty old Nikon D90 and fixed 35mm lens (no flash) and cycled over through the Chinese arboretum. Despite chatting most of the time, I did manage to get enough shots to tell some sort of story.

Since the local government is asking foreigners for a story and photos I thought I would knock something more ‘human’ together, rather than the classic landscapes they ask for. So here is my first attempt at writing a poem / story with photographs titles as each line. I hope you enjoy it, and see something of the connection I have with this group.

Guilin Chinese Opera Backstage Photography Cover
Guilin Opera Backstage

Guilin Opera Audience from Backstage

Guilin Opera Waiting to Raise the Certain

Guilin Opear Makeup Final Preparation

Guilin Opera On Stage Actors

Guilin Opera Certain Call

Guilin Opera Backstage Makeup Preparations

Guilin Opera Backstage Photography Session

Guilin Opera Backstage Reflection in the Mirror

Guilin Opera Smiling Cast Member

China Back Stage

Take a deeper look at China,
there’s a hidden world to explore.
She waits to raise the curtain,
just waiting to perform.
The show begins to start, but I do not take my seat.
I’m back stage!
It’s the people… I want to meet.
Their culture, smiles and singing,
their warm and friendly kindness.
That’s my home, my China. I hope you too will meet