Capturing the moment

Origin Stories: Michael Veith

Winnipeg photographer Michael Veith has made his name photographing his hometown of Macau, documenting the spaces rapidly being lost to development.

Michael Veith (supplied)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then local photographer Michael Veith’s Instagram page @expiringcity has produced a 2.2 million-word novel thus far. 

The project, which Veith premiered as a photo exhibit at Forth Café in 2019, pays homage to Macau, a city and special administrative region in China, where he was raised. He says that due to Macau’s rapid development in recent years, he wanted to capture moments of Macau based on how he experienced it growing up.

“I had a sense of inspiration and urgency, and based on the photos that I saw as a child compared to what I saw in recent years, Macau is an ever-changing and constantly expanding city,” he says. “That gave me inspiration to capture scenes I saw in my childhood before they changed.”

Veith’s childhood played a crucial role in his photography journey, as he was introduced to a DSLR camera by his parents, and he saw some Macau photographers’ pieces in his home.

“When people would come and visit my parents in Macau, my parents had many different photobooks of the city (to) show them, so I would look through these photobooks, and I was inspired by those photos,” he says.

The phrase “Expiring City” refers to Macau’s semi-autonomy. It is classified as a special administrative region of China and, in 1999, the Chinese government agreed with Portugal to grant 50 years of sovereignty to the region.

Although gambling remains illegal for mainland China, it’s allowed in Macau. Its most popular site is the Cotai Strip that features the Parisian Macao (with an Eiffel Tower replica) and the Ventetian Macao, which is the second largest casino in the world.

Veith says many photographers capture this aspect of the city, but he wants to take a different approach.

“There are a lot of resorts, and there is a very big nightlife scene there, so a lot of the photo accounts that I saw of Macau really promoted that side of the country,” he says. 

“However, I wanted to show the slower side of Macau, more of the everyday scenes that I remembered growing up there.”

Although Macau and Winnipeg are in different regions and experiencing different developments, Veith sees similar traits to both growing cities. 

“I biked downtown recently, and people were putting up boards (on the downtown Hudson’s Bay) windows,” he says. “It reminded me that big changes are coming to Winnipeg in the sense of business closures, and new highrise complexes being constructed.”

Veith says he is looking forward to the city’s changes but insists that the entire Winnipeg population, especially marginalized communities, should be considered in the changes. 

“I do not have negative feelings towards the changes, but I am mindful that those changes (should be for) the benefit of all,” he says. 

Follow Veith’s work at @expiringcity on Instagram.

Published in Volume 75, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 3, 2021)

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