Monday, October 06, 2008

Mr. Steve Barru: Our Man in China!

We have always enjoyed Steve Barru's photos of China when submitted to the Photo Memes but we knew nothing about him. He doesn't do self portraits, doesn't talk about himself much on his photoblog, it's nearly wordless (As so many SHOULD be).

When we inquired about a possible visit and tour of the Orients he pulled the oldest trick in the book AND USED OUR SECRET CODE INDICATING THE HE KNEW OUR REAL IDENTITIES AS THE HEADS OF THE BILL AND MELINDA GATES CHARITABLE FOUNDATION! Sneaky bugger. He maintains it was coincidence.

So, without further ado...

Who are you and why are you doing this to us?

I'm a guy. Not a boy or a woman or a man or a pit bull. I don't wear lipstick, except maybe at Halloween. I came to China in 1987 to study Chinese and have been here ever since. People often ask me why anyone in his right mind would stay in a place like this for so many years. It's a good question, the answer to which is embedded within the question (hint: in his right mind).

First, I studied Chinese, then I became a part time English teacher in order to have time to study some more. These days I am back to being an English teacher again. In between, I started and ran a consulting company which tried to help non-Chinese figure out things about China, ran an international chamber of commerce, was on the board of an international school, worked for some architects.

While I have lived comfortably here, it is safe to say none of these endeavors has made me well off or even close to it. I am teflon coated when it comes to money. Well, what is one with such a resume to do? In my case, I have set my sights on being a professional interviewee when I grow up (which is going to be no time soon). And, thus, here I am.

Do you know Kerrin? (Don't tell us who else you know, if you catch our drift)

I most certainly do not know Kerrin. Should I? Do you? I don't know Jon Stewart either, but I still think he is very funny.

What are you wearing?

Almost nothing. Sort of puke green boxers and a big black tee shirt (no text, pictures or message of any kind), which does a less than successful job of concealing my even bigger mid section.

Where else can we see your photos? Do you have any side projects?

You can see my photos on my website ( and that's about it. Please visit. Please. Did I remind you to please visit my website...?

What other hobbies do you enjoy or enjoy inflicting upon others?

I like building plastic models of WWII weapons and equipment. A Chinese friend of mine recently expressed dismay that a going on 60 year old adult would enjoy doing such a thing. If you share his dismay, all I can do is refer you back to my remark about growing up in the first section of this interview.

After many years in China, laughing and/or weeping at the Commies and their despicable Party has also become something of a pastime. Given a chance, I will hold forth on almost any topic, whether I know anything or not. I'm not sure people who know me would refer to this as a hobby.

What equipment do or have you used? Are there any manufacturers you'd like to praise or bad mouth here?

I've been using Nikon cameras since day one. In fact I still have my first real camera, a Nikon F which I bought in 1968. I'm using a Nikon D200 these days with a Sigma 18-200mm lens, no stabilization. The Sigma was less than half the price of the Nikon 18-200 and I have no regrets that I saved the money. It's a terrific lens attached to a great camera.

Right now I'm waiting for Nikon to bring a mid range full sensor camera to market and go head to head with the Canon 5D. The D3 is too expensive and too heavy for an old fart like me.

What is the best photo that you missed?

When I first came to China I took thousands of photos, on film in those days. And then several years went by during which I took next to no pictures. Hard to say which of the missed shots would have been the best one, but I certainly regret my stupidity for putting the camera down.

Tell us your worst habit.

Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow. Need I say more?

Have you ever done anything heroic? (i.e. solved crimes, saved someone from a burning building or untied them from railroad tracks, fought injustice, donated organs) If not, why not? If so, please include press clippings.

I campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in Wisconsin in 1968. Later I was tear gassed during Viet Nam demonstrations in Washington DC. Does any of this count?

If you weren't doing what you do now, what else WOULD you be doing? Photographer doesn't count.

These days I am an English teacher. As gigs go, this is not a bad one - low stress, a reasonable amount of free time and some money on top of that. What would I do if I could? Travel to all of the places I want to go but have never had the time or money to visit. The list is very long. Although it doesn't count, I would take pictures in all of these places.

Do you wear glasses? If so, describe them, if not, why not? Don't you like glasses?

Anything less than 6 feet away is nothing but a blur, so you'd better believe I wear glasses. I'm not one of those people who has something against glasses. What I want to know is what all of those people wearing contacts have against glasses.

What, you want a description too? Well, they're cheap, my glasses that is. The kind of reading glasses you buy off the shelf in Target (I don't know about you, but I haven't set foot in a Walmart in years, the evil slime bags. Can I count this as heroic?)

What did you have for breakfast?

A bowl of warm tofu covered with a sort of pork gravy and pickled cabbage. I'm serious.

Tell us something else!

Not only are the Olympics over. Yes! Finally! But on September 20 all restrictions on driving in Beijing ended. So thousands of Chinese yuppies can once again hop in their cars at will and sit in traffic polluting the already abysmally polluted Beijing air. Hurrah!

Now FLEE Hall of Shamers and Agents of Change and bask in all that is Mr Steve Barru and his outsider/insider guide to all things China and Photobloggish. But don't forget to always use your Photo Meme Hall of Shame ISP Anonymizer and Juicer so that when he sees no addtional traffic, HE'LL KNOW IT'S YOU!


Anonymous Kerrin/digitalphoto said...

I was in China in April didn't Steve see me. I was the one wandering around in the early morning light taking shots of the people I saw. I can see why he enjoys living there.
I've also been to Europe this year so maybe someone out there might know me.

12:01 AM  

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