The Lunar New Year (also known as the Chinese New Year), unlike its Western counterpart, is based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar (in which it is coordinated by the cycles of the moon), and it is followed mostly East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. It occurs around late January or early February. For 2019, the occasion falls on the 5th of February, and on that day starts the Year of the Pig.
Our lovely Lomographers who happened to capture the past Chinese New Year celebrations are here to share some of their personal tips and tricks in making the most festive film photographs of the Lunar New Year.
Plan and Go with the Flow Simultaneously
Firstly, before you can actually capture the Chinese New Year, you'll need to know where the festivities are taking place. If you live in Asia where it's a major holiday and tradition, you'll have no problem looking for the perfect spot (if your area doesn't have anything prepared, head over to neighborhoods or plazas that celebrate a diversity of events). Our Lomographer Adi a.k.a. adi_totp told us that Bandung, Indonesia always holds a parade during the New Year. He'd check the route first, then go with the flow of the celebration. Lomographers Tom and Graziella, a.k.a. tomkiddo and grazie respectively, recommends a more go-with-the-flow attitude.
Another one of our Lomographers, Jay a.k.a. uncle_jay also mentions that it's best to let things go as naturally as they are. The thing you'd want to prepare for is your tools – the film and camera you'll use.
“When I was at the location, I went with the flow. No planning involved. I decided to photograph the Zodiacs and whatever caught my eye/imagination... I like to document. I am not a creative guy, just someone who likes to capture some memories. My motto: I see, I like, I shoot.”
Symbols and Imagery
We love that the Lunar New Year isn't just about the fireworks. Your senses will be flooded with a lot of imagery you won't usually on a daily basis. It's the same for Stitch a.k.a. stitch: “I'd like to shoot anything related to the event so people in Chinese attire, the parade, lanterns... go wild!”
You'll find rabbit lanterns, which are reminders of the goddess who traveled the moon with a rabbit. The red lanterns, which symbolize good luck and prosperity, “light the way” for the family's Kitchen God. You'll also find a lot of fish decorations, which symbolize abundance. You'll also find banners with lines from poetry written down and hanging around places.
For 2019, we'll be celebrating the Year of the Pig. which is the bringer of wealth and are in charge or emotions and intuition, will be prominent in appearance.
Of Lions and Dragons
On parades, you'll also find legendary creatures come out of their nests. Stitch and Adi told us that the lion from the lion dance and the dragon mascot are some of the highlights of the festivity. Make sure to take photographs of them too, as they come up with some of the most dynamic poses.
Do not confuse the two to be alike, by the way! The Chinese lion dance will usually have only two people inside the costume. The movements in the lion dance are more playful and mischievous – they bring fortune and prosperity to the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the dragon dance would require more dancers – 15 dancers at maximum, and would usually be in an odd number. As much as the Chinese dragon is loaded with so many meanings, the dragon dance is mainly to bring good luck in the community.
Festive Colors: Red and Beyond
You'll find a lot of red during the festivity. It's the primary color of the Lunar New Year, and our Lomographers also think you should take advantage of red's strong visibility – Jay happened to cross-process his roll of Fuji Sensia and the photos turned out with tinges of pink:
“For this particular album, I suspected that most of my photos will turn out reddish or with a tinge of pink based on the choice of film (Fuji Sensia 100) that will be cross-processed. Plus, the fact that I also wanted the washed-out look that I saw in my grandparents' and parents' photo albums made Chinese New Year the right time to experiment with this film to bring out the color red.”
You might want to pack a roll of redscale film, just in case you're feeling experimental.
"My tip for the Lunar New Year would be to use colored film. Though I shot this roll with a slide film E6 developed, I would consider negative films like Lomography Color Negative 400 or 800, Kodak gold film or Fuji Superia 400. Another tip would be to stay in one place for some time and observe the activity in front of you then take it from there. Maybe a good 35 mm SLR camera or a point and shoot camera like the LC-A+ would work best."
Adi also added that apart from red, you should also look for other colors that will complement and contrast red. Using slide films and cross-processing would also result in punchier colors.
Eyes on the People and Seize the Moment
Make sure to observe the people around you, too. You'll find unexpected and unique subjects among the spectators. Some would dress up in traditional garments to welcome the new lunar year, some would involve themselves in the parade, giving you a glimpse of the traditional culture. If you're a non-participant, be mindful and respectful, some people may not be accustomed of having their photographs taken candidly, so don't forget to ask permission first. Stitch's words of wisdom: “Shoot close, don't be contented with landscape shots, isolate the subject, double expose if you can. Look for tell-tale signs that happen only during the Chinese New Year.”
Lastly, don't ever forget taking photographs of people and things you cherish. If you're celebrating the Lunar New Year with your friends, family or lover, always seize the moment. Tom shared that when he captured a photo of her mother, it happened to be the last Chinese New Year they spent together as she recently passed away. Tom shared:
“As much as you want to take nice-looking pictures, think about preserving memories and capturing the faces of your beloved relatives. I think that's the most important thing about photography.”
Get ready for your photo-coverage by stocking up on film or upgrading your art lenses and accessories, available at the Online Shop and Gallery Stores. Once your images are done and processed, don't forget to share your shots with the Community by uploading them to your LomoHome.