Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Water Women

Water Women

By Marie Yip

  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Bitter-sweet Relationship"
  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Joy of Serving a Steamed Fish"
  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Poet in Tears"
  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Drippy Head"
  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Drown Me"
  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Dragon Boat Racer and her Sweat"
  • A photo by Marie Yip, titled, "Drink, Baby, Drink"

Photography, to me, is honest, and sometimes sentimental. I have often been interested in discovering something unique in a subject through the lens. This “something” is perhaps a fleeting moment of emotion, a story, or even the innermost self of the subject, which to me, the beholder, is both stimulating and beautiful.

My work featured in this water-themed FUSION is a reflection of the seemingly commonplace water rituals performed by different female subjects. The water-related activities or actions presented here may first appear anonymous like stock pictures or some print ads but, at a closer glance, each picture tells a personal story. This is because these subjects are my close friends and their interplay with water has been extracted from their daily experience.

“Drink, Baby, Drink” is a picture of Winky and her baby girl Clarisse, who has not liked milk since birth. In this photo, Clarisse is making her mother most content by drinking a whole bottle of milk. The lighting is soft to conjure the feeling of tenderness. The baby, the bottle, and the mother together form a triangle that suggests their strong bond.

“Drippy Head” shows Ming sleeping tight with her long, wet hair spreading out on her bed. Although her caring mother has told her off a thousand times for not drying her hair before going to sleep, Ming cannot but ignore her as she is just too tired after work. Natural light has been utilized to create a harmonious ambience. An interesting visual contrast of the uncontrollable “Medusa” curls and the sharp clean stripes of her top reflects Ming’s inner struggle to restore a balance amidst her daily chaos.

“The Poet in Tears” zooms in on the face of Tammy, who was caught tearful watching an emotional shampoo commercial about a young girl with beautiful long hair. Among the several shots taken, I selected this one as it gives viewers more room to imagine what is on the poet’s mind.

“The Dragon Boat Racer and Her Sweat” features Jessica, the hard-working, white-collar employee who feels most alive during the dragon boat races when she cannot tell whether it is seawater or sweat on her face. To simulate such an uplifting sensation, Jessica was greeted with incessant cold-water spray and noisy cheers on the set.

In “The Bitter-sweet Relationship,” as a Chinese saying goes, what tastes bitter is good for one’s health. Polly, who has had trouble sleeping, has been taking Chinese medicine. A wide-angle lens and a top-down angle were used to make the subject’s head look bigger and more comical.

“Drown Me” shows Karen doing laundry. This image looks comparatively busy with most of its white space occupied by washing in the background and a huge bathtub in the foreground. Karen’s torso appears crooked and compressed with her head and fingers cropped. Yet she does not seem to care but runs her fingers dreamily into the water, immersed in some deep thought of her own.

“The Joy of Serving a Steamed Fish” features Emily, a theology student who hates the smell of fish but is delighted to prepare a traditional Chinese fish dish for the victims of the Tsunami disaster in Japan she visits every few months. The fish feast celebrates sacrifice as in the Christian story of “Five Loaves and Two Fish.” Emily’s innocent smile reminds one of the child in the story who has shared his food with the starving crowd.

The seven images display frontal poses of the female subjects against a white background. A shorter lens was used to allow a personal distance between the subjects and me for a casual chat during the shoot. The minimalist, white background eliminates distractions and connects the subjects and their actions in the series. The reason I chose to shoot in black and white is that water is colorless per se and the monotone sharpens the form, texture, and movement of water, endowing the movement with a sense of infinity in time and space.


Photo of Marie Yip

Marie Yip is a Hong Kong-based photographer and a first-prize winner in the SCMP (South China Morning Post) Portraits of Women Competition (2011). She received her M.A. in English studies from the University of Hong Kong. She is currently a contributor to CHA: An Asian Literary Journal.

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