The Yen Chow Cowboy. Mr To is a flamboyant old man always seen wearing his signature cowboy hat as he sells bric-a-brac on Yen Chow Street, Shamshuipo in Hong Kong.
I have heard many stories about him; no two are the same. Some say he grew up in Montana, others say it was Thailand. His story is that he was born in Hong Kong, but spent most of his life in Beijing; certainly he speaks primarily in Mandarin.
He claims to be 67, but appears to be at least 10 years older. His teeth are gone and his diminutive stature and slight frame give him a feeble demeanor. I can see this is far from the way he sees himself. The cowboy hat, his garb and the outrageously heavy accessories that he wears shouts of imposing power. I set out to capture that on film.
Positioning myself so that the heavily beaten wall was behind him, festooned with Chinese graffiti, the late afternoon sun lighting his face he seemed to be emerging from the shadows of the alleyway where he sells his wares.
I squatted to present a tall and imposing figure and shifted right just as I took the shot. As he followed my change of position, he predictably led with his upper body, adding dynamism in his stance. This was my decisive moment. The shutter opened and closed.
Today I presented him with his mounted enlargement. He was delighted. I had shown him as he looked in his mind’s eye.