by Ernie Diaz
Are you one of those kooks who spends more time staring at the Forbidden City workers than at the place itself? If so, you’re in good company with Tom Carter. His 640-page photobook, China: Portrait of a People, forsakes temple and tower to focus on China’s many faces. For those who read more in a twinkling eye or a lined brow than in a slate roof, the book is a revelation, providing a more honest picture of this turbulent land than a rack of China travel books pre-approved by the Ministry of Information.
China: Portrait of a People is the fruit of Tom’s two-year long march. Hoofing it through all 33 provinces on his own thin dime, Tom has amassed a comprehensive folio of China’s many peoples, photographed with an authentic hand that knows bus station grime and back-country dirt. Many of the pictures startle with their immediacy and candor, thanks to Tom’s resolve never to hide behind a zoom lens, to engage all his subjects as individuals. This commitment led him to close scrapes with coal mine authorities, and with police during a peasant uprising, but also to the most unconventional work of photo-journalism in some time. Here are some of his snaps, with accompanying captions
Beijing: Feng Tailocals on the eve of their 55th marriage anniversary.
Beijing: Expatriates-China’s unofficial 57th minority group. In Wudaokou, the New Zealander has established one of the city’s most popular café-bars, aptly named Lush, which attracts Chinese and expat students from the surrounding university district.
Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture: the second-largest Tibetan area in Sichuang is home to the ethnolinguistic subgroups Aba, Chabao-Jiarong and Zhugqu.
Chongqing:Engrossed in a game of xiangqi(Chinese chess).
Chongwu:The women of Hui’an County. A subgroup of the Han, the Hui’an are known for their unique folk customs and distinctive traditional attire, including yellow bamboo hats and blue kerchiefs.
Dalian:Police officer and her steed. Dalian’s female Mounted Police Unit was established in 1994 and is the first of its kind in China.
Dongshan: Cottage industry-In the local school yard, children have fun husking the community corn.
Hexi:From the mountain-sized sand dunes of Dunhuang down to the province’s capital Lanzhou on the Yellow River, the Hexi Corridor is part of the ancient Silk Road trading route which threads through northern Gansu.
Fenghuang:Women of the Miao ethnic minority wearing traditional indigo-blue turbans and hand-embroidered smocks.
Gegentala:110-kilogram Mongolian wrestler postures for his audience during the grassland’s famed Nadam Festival, meaning ‘Three Manly Games’. The traditional Mongolian festival takes place in late spring and includes wrestling, horseracing and archery.
Guangzhou:Waitress being trained at an upmarket restaurant.
Puxian:Mining is known as ‘the deadliest occupation in China’ and the State Administration of Work Safety calculates over 6,000 annual mine-related deaths(not including health consequences such as Black Lung or unreported fatalities at illegal ‘black mines’).
Yan’an:View of peasant shanties and cave dwellings at Qingliang Shan in central Yan’an.
Shenyang:On 3rd March 2007, the provincial capital suffered its heaviest snowstorm in 56 years. Arctic gales measuring 30 meters per second and minus 10℃ were not unlike the strike of a razor against bare skin, though some resourceful individuals took shelter in simple plastic bags.
Shanghai:The largest city in China and the eighth largest in the world, with a population of approximately 20 million.
To purchase China: Portrait of a People, click here.