In the great circle of life and love, musicians and lyricists share a language and lexicon with painters and photographers. This universal mother tongue is the eloquence of poetry, emotion, and rhyme.

“Aja” is a timeless song by the jazz-rock band Steely Dan, released in 1977. It narrates the story of someone seeking an escape from the chaos of everyday life, discovering solace in a tranquil retreat with “Chinese music under banyan trees.”

I have and know, so well, my very own “banyan trees”, and the music I hear under them, through the nose and chaos of life, is the sound of a shutter click.

According to Donald Fagen, a band member, the title was inspired by a high school friend whose brother, a soldier, married a Korean woman named Aja. Fagen found the name romantic and fitting for the song.

Names and notes, much like the impact of photographs, resonate deeply within the human heart. In Hong Kong, a ferry journey to Lantau Island unveils attractions such as Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, and Ngong Ping 360.

I vividly recall the mid-80s, a time when, on an editorial assignment for an NGO, I chain-smoked aboard the ferry to Lantau. The soundtrack to this journey was the Steely Dan Aja album, a constant companion that fueled reflections on the meaning of life, love, and spirituality.

This album, a game-changer, mirrored my complex and sophisticated constitution. It remains a powerful force in my thoughts, to the extent that I almost persuaded Shannon to name our first child, Aja. (Aja became Emma:))
Some songs, like memories, never truly fade away. “Aja” is such a song—a timeless influence that carved its place in my thinking.

Just as the song endures, photography, for me, weaves its way into the cracks, creases, and crevices of imagination and inspiration. Photography, akin to music, acts as a bridge connecting time and space, the head and heart, rhyme and reason, and the way things were with the way things are.

This post, a reflection on the enduring power of music and imagery, captures the essence of a journey through sound and sight, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of memories.



Jack Hollingsworth