We began our shoot by setting up the backdrop against a storefront. After a little light adjustment I was photographing a farmer carrying his goods. Nice shot. Maybe. But then the commotion starts. Crowds gather. Little room to shoot – it’s over. It’s all over I think. Not because of the crowd, but rather the farmer demands money and I have to explain that I can’t pay everyone. I’d go broke. The shopkeeper realizes this and starts tearing down the backdrop. ‘Just sit back and wait’ I tell myself. Until Chang (our fixer) says ‘No problem,’ and we move 30 meters to an open area in the town square. We have no choice but to rig up the backdrop between two mangled trees with bamboo, string, pins and clothes pegs. It works.

Notes from my diary – Suzhou, China, 1996