Category Archives: UPenn Photography

Grant Wei: Blinking Through Memories



Photography and Text by Grant Wei, Copyright 2018




On a warm morning, my grandmother opens the elevator door to give a warm embrace to her childhood friend, who had visited Beijing for professional reasons.

“How long has it been?” she exclaims. “Blink of an eye, and here we are.” She seats herself and her guest on her well-dusted couch from earlier in the morning. The TV had been left on, leaving a quiet rumbling of a CCTV news anchor to an otherwise quiet room.

Twenty years from their last reunion, my grandmother and her friend had much to talk about. But, at the same time, not much has changed. They still worked the same jobs as they did twenty years ago, still married to the same people, still had the same dulled idiosyncrasies they had when they were living in another form of government housing in Hunan.

They talked and talked, until she left. And then, they never had a chance to speak again.

We live our lives creating one memory to the next, letting some memories fade into nothingness as we make room for more memories in our life. It cycles. And cycles. And before you realize, you have lived your life without room to make new memories.

One moment, you are practicing violin in front of a mirror. The clothes you were wearing were the clothes that no longer fit on your cousin. Your haircut was… not cute. Nothing is quite on your mind because your stresses, in retrospect, weren’t really stresses at all. They were at the time. But grades, games, girls — why did you ever care as much as you did?


You got into Penn. It is, supposedly, the happiest moment of your life. But you are overwhelmed with the sensation that you don’t deserve to get in. You tell your best friends and your parents, giving them a quick call on the phone after storming out of the cafeteria during PMEA Regional Orchestra with tears in your eyes. You were happy then.


Now, you are writing about memories as if putting things down on a page could potentially free you from the cycle of blinking through your life. Things have happened to you. Friends were made and losts. Goals were realized and abandoned. But somehow, through it all, you still anchor yourself to the same memories that have created your identity.

And so it goes..


About The Author: Grant Wei is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Grant Wei, click here


Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Environment, Health Care, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn

Rongrong Liu: A Colorful Favela

Photography and Text by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018




Favela, in Portuguese, means a slum. Thousands of books and reports talk about these Brazilian shanty towns. There are 786 favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Each one has around 160,000 people. They live and die in these shady places because they cannot afford to live in the cities. If you type the word into Google, nothing positive shows up.They are said to be extremely dangerous and full of violence and drugs. However, after staying in Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, I found most of the urban areas essentially not too different, so my curiosity drove me to take a tour to the inner side of Brazil.

The tour guide was born and bred in Favela. He is a self-taught English and German speaker. He receives thousands of perfect reviews on Trip Advisor and must be able to afford a good life in urban Rio, but he still chooses to live in Favela. With a curiosity about this person and the place for certain, we arrived after a half-an-hour drive. Within expectation, the town is not as prosperous as some coastal areas, but it has most of what cities have- restaurants, clinics, supermarkets, bars, and surprisingly, banks. Considered as neglected places by the government, favelas are not provided with any subsidies, hence they developed their own self-sufficient economy. It is true that “some people just give up at some point of their life”, as said by the tour guide, but at the same time “there are still people who strive to change their fate. I learned English and German. I have been a tour guide for 26 years.” It is hard to imagine that a person can still be passionate after sharing the same thing and showing people around the same place for 26 years. However, I guess he just wants to use his ability to tell the world the positive side of Favela.

I didn’t know how much words can tell about a real favela, but I believe the camera can. I recorded what I saw along the road. There are all those yellow stick figure graffiti everywhere on the walls, on the wire poles, full of happiness and hope. On my way visiting, which was around 3pm in the afternoon, three teenage girls with backpacks passed by. After communicating with our tour guide, the girls gave the most beautiful smile on their faces to welcome us as foreigners. They pinched my face, and gave me a big hug. I guess that was the warmest and the most pure hug that I haven’t received for a long while.


About The Author: Rongrong Liu is a Junior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Rongrong Liu, click here


Also posted in Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, Music, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, Travel, UPenn

Frank “Fangyi” Fan: Trade Tensions Between US and China


Photography and Text by Frank “Fangyi” Fan, Copyright 2018




US-China Trade War has been in the headlines of major newspapers and websites for the past several weeks. On March. 22, 2018, President Trump signed an executive memorandum which would impose tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese imports; in response to that, the Chinese government published a statement which would impose tariffs on about $3 billion worth of U.S. exports. If the two countries do not come to an agreement in the following months, a fully-fledged trade war between China and the US would be highly possible, which will have enormous underlying impact on the global economy. This series of photographs strives to examine the current state of the relationship between the two superpowers, from the perspective of a Chinese international student in Philadelphia.

Several pictures  were taken in Philadelphia’s, Chinatown section. The history of Philadelphia’s Chinatown could be tracked to the mid-late 19th century when Cantonese immigrants migrated to Philadelphia  to open laundries and restaurants around the neighborhood. Nowadays it has become a vibrant community of Asian Americans as well as a great destination for Chinese international students to have a taste of home. The cuisine in Chinatown is always one of the top reasons to attract visitors. Although the potential impact of the trade war on Chinese restaurants in the U.S. would be limited, the prevalence of Chinese cuisine implies the size and influence of the Chinese community in the U.S. The tension between the two countries would definitely play a role in the daily life of Chinese people living in the U.S. Besides the restaurants, in Chinatown, mom-and-pop stores that sell goods imported from China could also be easily found. Those stores sell everything from hardware products to household goods, mostly imported from China. Relying on the cheaper labor in China, those products compete in the market by having a more attractive price. If trade war arises, those goods would lose a significant share in the market for sure. Right at the edge of Chinatown, six months into its construction, the Eastern Tower Community Center has been attracting attention from visitors in Chinatown. Located at 10th and Vine, the new community center is just two blocks away from the heart of Chinatown, which hopefully would drive an entire renovation of the neighborhood and the local economy.

As the busiest port terminal in Philadelphia, the Packer Terminal was a great spot to experience the influx of imported goods into one of the major cities on the east coast. While I was there trying to take picture of the colorful containers, I was actually ousted by the security person there, who said that the port only allowed relevant professionals to enter. However, I did take a couple pictures to showcase the volume and variety of the imported goods stored at the terminal. Everyday, hundreds of trucks come over here to bring the goods shipped from overseas to all kinds of places in Pennsylvania. For every one of us, we experience the benefits of globalization on a daily basis. With that in mind, I hope that U.S. and China could settle down on the current trade conflicts since no one would want to see a trade war  actually happen.


About The Author: Fangyi “Frank” Fan is a Senior enrolled in the School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018. To access additional articles by Fangyi “Frank” Fan, click here


Also posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, History, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Travel, UPenn

Esther Fleischer: It’s a Dog’s World in West Philadelphia



Photography and Text by Esther Fleischer, Copyright 2018




Back in elementary school, my friends and I would always ask about how others see color. What if when I hold up my favorite blue Crayola marker, someone else sees the green one instead? What if girls see pink as blue-is that why girls like pink and guys like blue? How can we tell? Are there special glasses that we could use, or a way to transport ourselves into another’s mind to see through their eyes?

I never did completely get answers to those questions, but whatever the answer to the above may be, dogs do see color differently than we do. Rather like a form of color blindness called Protanopia, dogs only have two types of cones rather than the three that the average person has. Without the third type of cone, dogs see on a spectrum that ranges from yellow to blue to dark grey rather than the standard rainbow.

Wandering through West Philadelphia, searching for anything that would catch a dog’s eye. A squirrel, streaking across the park, running away from you as you get closer to it. It climbs the tree and stops, staring at you.

A bright fire hydrant, yellow in the dog’s view. A flag waving in the bright, clear sky. A car, a trash can, caution tape surrounded by leaves on the brick sidewalk.

Most importantly are all of the friends you meet along the way. Another dog in the park. A kind person willing to throw a stick.


About The Author: Esther Fleischer is a Freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Esther Fleischer, click here


Also posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, Women

Eileen Ko: Home Sweet Home


Photography, Text and Video by Eileen Ko, Copyright 2018




Let me welcome you to my hometown, Fort Lee. This year for spring break, I went back home to New Jersey. Although going back home isn’t necessary traveling, I thought I could use this assignment as an opportunity to introduce my town to other people who have never heard of or been to Fort Lee.

Fort Lee is a borough located at the northeastern border of New Jersey and is in the New York City Metropolitan Area. That is because the town is right across the George Washington Bridge, which crosses over the Hudson River and connects Fort Lee directly to Manhattan. Fort Lee is named after General Charles Lee, who served as a general during the American Revolutionary War. And although this is an unheard-of fact to many, it is also the birthplace of the American film industry. Fort Lee was center of film production in the United States before Hollywood took over.

In recent decades, Fort Lee experienced a huge immigrant population influx, which has converted the town into a very diverse community. As you walk through the streets, you will see many stores and restaurant signs written in various languages, representing different countries. You will also see many churches, parks, playgrounds, a library, theater, adult activity center for senior citizens, and a community and recreational center various environments available for all ages.

Although I consider Fort Lee to be my hometown now, it isn’t where I grew up for the first half of my life. I first moved to Fort Lee in 8th grade. I still remember my first impressions of the town when moving there. A busy and lively urban city with a suburban touch in the outskirts of the town. A diverse society filled with a wide variety of food to enjoy. An engaged neighborhood regularly hosting carnivals, parades, and other entertaining events.

I have made so many fun and pleasant memories here in Fort Lee that I will forever cherish. Many of the best memories of my life were created in this town. It’s a town rich in history, diversity, and fun. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.



About The Author: Eileen Ko is a Nursing student in her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Eileen Ko, click here


Also posted in Architecture, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, Travel, UPenn, Women