The Monday Morning Gallery – Karasumi & Seabass in the War Zone (by Bradley Sissins)

Welcome to 2014. Our first Monday Morning Gallery for the year is by Bradley Sissins. His words and images capture the plight of the local fishermen of Kinmen as they live with the very real dangers of live land mines as they tend to their “normal lives”.  

Throughout my constant travelling there are a few places that have utterly amazed me, one such location is Kinmen (pronounced Jinmen’).  Kinmen is a small island located approximately two kilometers off the east coast of Xiamen, China. Its history dates back thousands of years, but it is more recently know for the 1949 Chinese Civil war, and often referred to as the “battlefield island”. This reference is not only because of its unique war scenery but also the truly unique architecture. The island is covered by traditional southern Fujianese architecture with prewar Western style buildings scattered amongst them, a recollection of the atmosphere of from the British influence in China post WW1. Traditionally part of China, since the 14th century it has been an important part of the country’s political, trade, and military system. During the Chinese Civil War of 1949 this small island was where the Republic of China (ROC) made its final and current stand against the Communists.

In October 1949 the “Battle of Guoingtou” begun, approximately 19,000 Communist troops assailed the beaches in two waves believing they could overrun the small island within three days. Knowing that an attack was eminent, the ROC laid 7,455 land mines, constructed over 200 earthen bunkers and fortified the beaches with anti-amphibious landing barriers, also reinforcing with the island more armour, troops and supplies. Underestimating their adversary, the attack was a failure and the PLA was virtually massacred. Kinmen remained in the power of the ROC, and along with Taiwan, remained outside the bounds of the Communists.

The reality of war is unknown to the majority of us, but this is a country whose last war was in the 1950’s yet skirmish’s between Kinmen and China still occur and the island is surrounded armed bunkers, canons, land mines and anti landing barricades. Yet despite this locals live as normal.

Ci Causeway in the north western part of the island is an area that fierce fighting occurred and still today is very heavily fortified, despite this, local fisherman go about their daily chores. During one morning we wondered down a small marked pathway to the beach. Pathways are rudimentarily defined, there’s no grass on them, and as a word of caution, never wander off them as the area is laid with landmines. Local fisherman had setup there nets and traps at the outflow point of Lake Ci, hoping to catch their daily feed.  In the following images you will notice a wall of nets around the traps, this is there to define where the mines aren’t, walk beyond that and the risk of death is real. The mines and ordinance have been cleared from the fishing area and out of interest they get melted down and made into sashimi knives, this is part of Kinmen’s economy – bombs to knives! But in this instance they were after Karasumi (grey mullet roe) and Seabass, Karasumi is a traditional and much prized food, easily described as salted mullet roe, and yes it’s extremely tasty! We were lucky to sit back and watch as the traps were emptied, the locals were happy to talk to us, my wife speaks fluent Taiwanese and Chinese so they felt at ease even though I was running around them taking photos.

It may not be the traditional fishing images that you see on this site, but it’s a glimpse of traditional fishing in a war torn country is like where fishing is food and not sport.

All the images were captured with a Leica M Monochrom and a selection of Leica lenses. The MM is the only pure black and white camera made in the world, it’s a camera for the monochrome purist, and yes that’s me.

You can see more images at my website at www.shottobits.com.au plus read more about the history of this fascinating place.

 

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