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October 13, 2009

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An MBA with an artistic flair

WHARTON MBA, American CPA, consultant at Bain and Co - this sounds like an ideal resume for an ambitious and upwardly mobile young Chinese business professional.
But there's more to MBA and CPA holder Clare Song than strategies and spread sheets - she's got a solo photo exhibition, "Mind's Eye," that reveals a sensitive and passionate heart.
Her subjects are architecture, such as the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the white stone buildings against the blue Aegean on the Greek island of Santorini and the jungle temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
"I know there is a certain standard to define a successful returned overseas Chinese," says the Shanghai native who now works in Hong Kong. "But in my eyes, a business professional should also be versatile so that his or her life would be enriched."
Carrying a fashionable Miu Miu bag and dressed to match, she appears quite Western and speaks perfect English.
"Many people have photographed the same places I have depicted here. All have different interpretations of the buildings and scenes, due to their different frames of mind," says Song.
She quotes Cezanne, "We must put all else out of our minds. We must become that moment, make ourselves a sensitive recording plate ... forgetting everything that has been seen before our time."
Song left Shanghai to study in the United States in 2001 when she was 21 and found she had almost no one to turn to.
"My family and I knew almost no one there at the time, so some people doubted whether a pampered Shanghai girl could survive," she says.
Song belongs to the post-1980s generation, which is considered by many to be self-centered and lacking the spirit of hard work.
Song, however, was quite resourceful and determined, not fitting the stereotype.
"I broke my leg soon after I landed on campus, but I did all my cooking and laundry myself, standing on one leg and using a walking stick," she recalls. "I didn't tell my parents a word of this. I thought I could handle it myself."
Gradually she developed a social network and adapted to her surroundings in the US.
"Believe it or not, every time I fly back to the United States, I have a feeling that I am coming home," says Song. "That's where I spent the golden days of my life and it is there that I grow independently spiritually."
Song was a wunderkind and retains her zest for life. She skipped two grades and was admitted to university when she was only 16 years old.
"I still remember my answer as a teenager to the question 'What is education?' " she says. "Education is not to teach people to earn more bread, but to add taste to every bite."
Her consulting work is demanding, she travels a lot and sometimes cannot adjust to jet lag.
Photography, she says, allows her to "savor a different life."
She quotes Marc Riboud: "Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second."
Asked about her focus on architecture, Song says the American writer O. Henry once said he loved to see the rooftops of New York "because there was a story under every roof."
Photographing buildings is a chance to recreate their personalities, she says.
"When three dimensional becomes two dimensional, new visual relationships are created with each move the photographer makes."
But she doesn't emphasize the technical relationships, "because every moment should be captured by a special touch."


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