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From the subtropical jungles of Yunnan to the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang; across the scalding deserts of Xinjiang and beneath Hong Kong's neon blur. Tramping through China by train, bus, boat, motorcycle, mule or hitching on the back of anything that moved. On a budget so scant that he drew sympathetic stares from peasants. Backpacking photographer Tom Carter somehow From the subtropical jungles of Yunnan to the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang; across the scalding deserts of Xinjiang and beneath Hong Kong's neon blur. Tramping through China by train, bus, boat, motorcycle, mule or hitching on the back of anything that moved. On a budget so scant that he drew sympathetic stares from peasants. Backpacking photographer Tom Carter somehow succeeded in circumnavigating over 35,000 miles (56,000 kilometers) across all 33 provinces in China during a 2-year period, the first foreigner on record ever to do so. What Carter found along the way, and what his photographs ultimately reveal, is that China is not just one place one people, but 33 distinct geographical regions populated by 56 different ethnicities, each with their own languages, customs and lifestyles. Despite increased tourism and surging foreign investment, the cultural distances between China and the West remain as vast as the oceans that separate them. Carter's book, CHINA: Portrait of a People, was published as a means to visually introduce China to the world by providing a glimpse into the daily lives of the ordinary people who don't make international headlines yet whom are invariably the heart and soul of this country. MEDIA REVIEWS "One of China's most extraordinary explorers." --The World of Chinese "Part of the strength of this book is its independent spirit. It's not a travel guide showing China dressed in its Sunday best, or a photojournalistic approach documenting the underbelly of the country, but rather a peek at the sights Carter has seen and a corrective to both the glowing promotional images and negative media shots that we are all familiar with." -- China Daily "Tom Carter is an extraordinary photographer whose powerful work captures the heart and soul of the Chinese people." -- Anchee Min, author of Red Azalea "Tom Carter's photo book is an honest and objective record of the Chinese and our way of life... his camera leads us through 33 wide-sweeping scenes of the real and the surreal." -- Mian Mian, author of Candy "Capturing the diversity of [China's] 56 ethnic groups is a remarkable achievement ... There are a number of shots in this book that could easily grace the pages of National Geographic ... Unless you want to undertake your own two-year trek through some of the mainland's most difficult terrain to take your own shots, this is a study well worth having on your bookshelf." -- South China Morning Post "In these 900 images, Carter shows just how diverse the Chinese really are, with their different facial features, skin hues, lifestyles, cultures and occupations. What ensues is an engaging and enlightening photo essay of 1.3 billion people." -- Asian Geographic Passport "A striking, kaleidoscopic vision of China's lands and people." -- The Beijinger "Through Carter's journey of self-discovery, we end up discovering a little more about ourselves -- and a land so vast, so disparate, that 638 pages of photos barely manage to scratch the surface. Still, CHINA: Portrait of a People is a very good place to start peeling back the layers." -- Time Out Hong Kong "Travel photos taken by a stranger seldom fascinate. But 800 color images captured by Tom Carter as he spent two years on the road, traveling 56,000 kilometers through all of China's 33 provinces, make a dramatic exception ... Carter's weighty book takes an effort to carry home from a store. But anyone interested in China should love owning it." -- Cairns Media Magazine "Getting a full picture of China - a vast country with an enormous population, a place that is experiencing sweeping cultural and economic changes - is, of course, impossible. But Tom Carter comes close. ... It's a remarkable book, compact yet bursting with images that display the diversity of a nation of 56 ethnic groups." -- San Francisco Chronicle "In China: Portrait of a People, Tom Carter shows us that there are actually dozens of Chinas. The American photojournalist spent two years traveling 35,000 miles through every province of China by bus, boat, train, mule, motorcycle, and on foot." -- Christian Science Monitor


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From the subtropical jungles of Yunnan to the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang; across the scalding deserts of Xinjiang and beneath Hong Kong's neon blur. Tramping through China by train, bus, boat, motorcycle, mule or hitching on the back of anything that moved. On a budget so scant that he drew sympathetic stares from peasants. Backpacking photographer Tom Carter somehow From the subtropical jungles of Yunnan to the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang; across the scalding deserts of Xinjiang and beneath Hong Kong's neon blur. Tramping through China by train, bus, boat, motorcycle, mule or hitching on the back of anything that moved. On a budget so scant that he drew sympathetic stares from peasants. Backpacking photographer Tom Carter somehow succeeded in circumnavigating over 35,000 miles (56,000 kilometers) across all 33 provinces in China during a 2-year period, the first foreigner on record ever to do so. What Carter found along the way, and what his photographs ultimately reveal, is that China is not just one place one people, but 33 distinct geographical regions populated by 56 different ethnicities, each with their own languages, customs and lifestyles. Despite increased tourism and surging foreign investment, the cultural distances between China and the West remain as vast as the oceans that separate them. Carter's book, CHINA: Portrait of a People, was published as a means to visually introduce China to the world by providing a glimpse into the daily lives of the ordinary people who don't make international headlines yet whom are invariably the heart and soul of this country. MEDIA REVIEWS "One of China's most extraordinary explorers." --The World of Chinese "Part of the strength of this book is its independent spirit. It's not a travel guide showing China dressed in its Sunday best, or a photojournalistic approach documenting the underbelly of the country, but rather a peek at the sights Carter has seen and a corrective to both the glowing promotional images and negative media shots that we are all familiar with." -- China Daily "Tom Carter is an extraordinary photographer whose powerful work captures the heart and soul of the Chinese people." -- Anchee Min, author of Red Azalea "Tom Carter's photo book is an honest and objective record of the Chinese and our way of life... his camera leads us through 33 wide-sweeping scenes of the real and the surreal." -- Mian Mian, author of Candy "Capturing the diversity of [China's] 56 ethnic groups is a remarkable achievement ... There are a number of shots in this book that could easily grace the pages of National Geographic ... Unless you want to undertake your own two-year trek through some of the mainland's most difficult terrain to take your own shots, this is a study well worth having on your bookshelf." -- South China Morning Post "In these 900 images, Carter shows just how diverse the Chinese really are, with their different facial features, skin hues, lifestyles, cultures and occupations. What ensues is an engaging and enlightening photo essay of 1.3 billion people." -- Asian Geographic Passport "A striking, kaleidoscopic vision of China's lands and people." -- The Beijinger "Through Carter's journey of self-discovery, we end up discovering a little more about ourselves -- and a land so vast, so disparate, that 638 pages of photos barely manage to scratch the surface. Still, CHINA: Portrait of a People is a very good place to start peeling back the layers." -- Time Out Hong Kong "Travel photos taken by a stranger seldom fascinate. But 800 color images captured by Tom Carter as he spent two years on the road, traveling 56,000 kilometers through all of China's 33 provinces, make a dramatic exception ... Carter's weighty book takes an effort to carry home from a store. But anyone interested in China should love owning it." -- Cairns Media Magazine "Getting a full picture of China - a vast country with an enormous population, a place that is experiencing sweeping cultural and economic changes - is, of course, impossible. But Tom Carter comes close. ... It's a remarkable book, compact yet bursting with images that display the diversity of a nation of 56 ethnic groups." -- San Francisco Chronicle "In China: Portrait of a People, Tom Carter shows us that there are actually dozens of Chinas. The American photojournalist spent two years traveling 35,000 miles through every province of China by bus, boat, train, mule, motorcycle, and on foot." -- Christian Science Monitor

30 review for CHINA: Portrait of a People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Yoshinga

    I am a Mainland Chinese who grew up during the 10 years of Cultural Revolution. At the end of my graduate study in 1986, I went on a hitch-hiking trip to Tibet with a friend of mine. We had 45 RMB Yuan, a camera, and 4 rolls of films with us. We spent a month on the road, riding in the back of coal-hauling trucks, on the make-shift engine cover in the front of old buses, in the back of tractors, climbing over hills, and riding on the back of horses. We slept in horse stables, tents, and I am a Mainland Chinese who grew up during the 10 years of Cultural Revolution. At the end of my graduate study in 1986, I went on a hitch-hiking trip to Tibet with a friend of mine. We had 45 RMB Yuan, a camera, and 4 rolls of films with us. We spent a month on the road, riding in the back of coal-hauling trucks, on the make-shift engine cover in the front of old buses, in the back of tractors, climbing over hills, and riding on the back of horses. We slept in horse stables, tents, and sometimes, for 1.5 yuan a night, we got to sleep in a bed... That was the highlight of my travel experience: 1 month, 4 provinces, and 100 photos. Tom Carter has done this for 2 years across 33 provinces in China. When I looked at the photos in his book, my eyes were swelled with tears the whole time: His photos have so accurately and vividly captured the features and the characteristics of the people from this most diversed country in the world that I call my motherland! Without reading the captions, I can tell that that young man is from Guangxi, that girl is from Sichuan, and those folks are from Heilongjiang. I can hear them talk in their dialects. I can feel their hopes. I can touch their spirits... They have aroused my desire to talk with them and laugh with them again. They reminded me so much of everything I saw in my little excursion over twenty years ago. It was a journey down the memory lane but it is more. It tells me things that I have no experience of since I have been gone away for almost 20 years... I have lived in the United states for many years. When I go to bookstores, I am naturally attracted to the sections where I can find books about China. I have not seen another book like this - so real and so recent, capturing all the changes that have happened in China in the last 20-30 years while at the same time showing the essence and heritage of the culture. I hope more people will read this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trey

    I worked a minimum wage job, just taught grandma how to use her oven she's had for 8 years, and survived Iowa. I was looking for a break, and I stumbled upon Tom's book. At first I wondered what was lurking inside this dictionary with a unique cover? A story? Or one of those boxes of candy that are made to look like a catchy book? Either way, strolling through Barnes and Noble I found myself always returning to stare at the book. I decided I might as well get a taste of whatever was inside. I worked a minimum wage job, just taught grandma how to use her oven she's had for 8 years, and survived Iowa. I was looking for a break, and I stumbled upon Tom's book. At first I wondered what was lurking inside this dictionary with a unique cover? A story? Or one of those boxes of candy that are made to look like a catchy book? Either way, strolling through Barnes and Noble I found myself always returning to stare at the book. I decided I might as well get a taste of whatever was inside. Opening the cover, the contents can direct the reader to the different provinces in China (most I've never heard of). Each province (section) contains a written review by a local from that province or Tom himself; and each short review is followed by at least 20 pages of clear photos that try to give the reader a glimpse of China. I found myself amazed of all the different ethnic minorities that make up what we call "China". Tom took stunning photos of both city and farm life. As a cancer survivor I felt there had to be more to life than Iowa. I finished Tom's photobook, went to the door, and like the fictional Frodo Baggins I bid my goodbye to the US. My Mordor experience was over, so it was time for an adventure to the beautiful shores of China.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Grady

    Verbal and Visual Images by an Ambassador of Good Will: Tom Carter Rarely does a book of richly colored photographic images of a country and the people that inhabit that country on every page reveal so much of a culture that the book becomes an instant resource for fascinated travelers (real and armchair), students, teachers, and readers who care about the planet we call Earth. CHINA: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE is indeed what the title suggests: within the covers of this book are more faces sampling Verbal and Visual Images by an Ambassador of Good Will: Tom Carter Rarely does a book of richly colored photographic images of a country and the people that inhabit that country on every page reveal so much of a culture that the book becomes an instant resource for fascinated travelers (real and armchair), students, teachers, and readers who care about the planet we call Earth. CHINA: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE is indeed what the title suggests: within the covers of this book are more faces sampling the 1.3 billion people who inhabit the 33 provinces and the 56 cultures of the vast country of China, faces that range from the new born to the elderly, the healthy to the suffering, the traditional culture bound with the new Westernized modern look, all placed within the context of the land and the life differences in one fascinatingly diverse country. Tom Carter almost unintentionally created this brilliant book. His goal was to spend two years traveling across China, lingering long enough in each of the varied provinces to learn the customs, the people's way of life, the history that varies so greatly among the provinces (both ancient and recent - meaning within the last century), and capture the land and the people who dwell there with his camera. A young politician by training, Carter had already made a similar journey through Mexico, Central America and Cuba: this idea of earnest sociological, journalistic and humanitarian investigations was in place. In 2004 he traveled to the People's Republic of China as an English language teacher in Central China and in two year's time he resolved to learn more about the people who inhabit this divers and historically rich land: in 2006 he began his trek by every possible means of transportation traveling through every province, staying is many cities, soaking up the realities of life there that too often are obscured from tourists, committed to learning all he could, incorporating the splendors of the vistas from the Gobi Desert to the highest mountains of Tibet to the lush mountains and rivers and the seas and oceans that brush China's borders - and capturing it all on film! Few of us realize how disparate are the various provinces of this great country. Carter shows us these variations of religions (Buddhism, Muslim, and variations within these, and more), farming, apparel, ritual, celebrations, animals, connections to the earth, the influence of the mass changes of Westernization on the beauty of the historically significant architecture, the lay of the land in the way it supports (and in certain cases dooms) its people, the forms of sport and entertainment, compassion and revolt, and the response of the people to the presence of an 'outsider'. Carter's photographic images were taken with Olympus Camedia C400 camera: more color saturation could not be possible than in the images we see here. Another major aspect of this book is the presence on most pages of a few words by the author that so simply define the meaning behind each of the provinces and the people he has captured on film. Each section on each of the 33 provinces begins with a succinct description about the historical significance and the unique aspects of that province. At times there are bits of poetic moments shared, and at time the words of someone he met are shared. In all, then, this as complex a diary of a country as any book presented about he vast country that is China, an ancient and yet also very modern neighbor. Reading and absorbing this book will provide the reader with a true sense of the cultural riches of China: more important, the reader will feel an affinity for these people with whom we share life on the planet. Highly recommended to all readers. Grady Harp

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janie

    Normally I review novels. Stories. And Ive decided CHINA: Portrait of a People by travel photographer Tom Carter qualifies because every one of his photographs holds an amazing story. I am reviewing this book because in a country of 1.3 billion, it`s clear that Carter managed to make a personal connection with each person he photographed, bringing a sense of intimacy to this collection of 800 photographs. Plus, Carters epic, two-year backpacking journey through China is as much of a story as any Normally I review novels. Stories. And I’ve decided CHINA: Portrait of a People by travel photographer Tom Carter qualifies because every one of his photographs holds an amazing story. I am reviewing this book because in a country of 1.3 billion, it`s clear that Carter managed to make a personal connection with each person he photographed, bringing a sense of intimacy to this collection of 800 photographs. Plus, Carter’s epic, two-year backpacking journey through China is as much of a story as any of his photographs. Over four thousand years of recorded history, entire cultures have been absorbed into China. I’ve always known, intellectually, that China is a country of many ethnic minorities. I know that certain dialects out on the western edges of the country owe more to Turkish than Mandarin. But it’s Carter’s book that has put faces, architectures, landscapes -- and emotions -- to those minorities, and for me that’s the most wonderful thing about this book. Away from the urban centres where centuries-old homes are being bulldozed to build high-rise office towers, China is still a nation rich in diversity: 56 distinct cultures and 33 provinces, most of them still rural. I feel grateful they have not vanished. I worry that they are vanishing. Most travel books look as though they were commissioned by a tourism board: beautiful scenery, unique architecture, regional costumes and food. Carter never veers away from the quotidian that gives context to the people he portrays. There are images of unexpected and beautiful scenery and plenty of colourful costumes, but also harsh landscapes of extreme climates, poverty, ugly industrial towns, the good and bad of Western influences. We come face to face with ordinary people striving with great energy to improve their lives, trying to find some niche where they can earn a livelihood. There are families, young hipsters and elderly farmers, fat babies and sooty-faced miners. The book itself is thoughtfully organized by province. Each section opens with a simple map to position the province and the locations photographed for the reader. There is a brief introduction to each province that highlights its historical significance and unique qualities. Sometimes there is poetry or quotes from someone Carter met, or an anecdote. Overall, it feels like a very personal, multi-faceted travel diary crossed with a social studies book (and I loved Social Studies at school, by the way, so this is a compliment). What’s truly amazing is that Tom Carter did not set out to create this book. In 2004, he went backpacking across China for a year, with the intent of learning about the lesser-known regions that tour buses ignore. Photography was just a way to document his trip. On a very limited budget, he traveled the way locals would travel – by bus or train. After that first year, he got a book deal to publish his photos. That was the impetus for his second year of travel: to make sure he had captured enough images for a definitive collection. As a result, CHINA: Portrait of a People, now in its second printing, has been called the most comprehensive book of photography on modern China ever published by a single author. Tom shares some of his photography on Flickr. This article from The Atlantic also features some wonderful shots from the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Tyley

    If one picture is worth a thousand words, then this striking work is worth a million words. At 15.2 x 15.2 cms and 638 pages this book is more like a box of photos a wonderfully diverse photographic exploration of Chinas people and culture. The magic of photography is that it captures a glimpse in time that would otherwise be lost, an insight into another world. This is a book that belongs on the coffee table not the bookshelf. A treasure to be shared. Thank you, Tom Carter. If one picture is worth a thousand words, then this striking work is worth a million words. At 15.2 x 15.2 cms and 638 pages this book is more like a box of photos – a wonderfully diverse photographic exploration of China’s people and culture. The magic of photography is that it captures a glimpse in time that would otherwise be lost, an insight into another world. This is a book that belongs on the coffee table not the bookshelf. A treasure to be shared. Thank you, Tom Carter.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    What a brilliant book, a whistle-stop tour of China, including the bits the Chinese media wouldn't want you to see. Gorgeous genuine candid portraits, historical and factual information, and personal anecdotes from the author, truly a great read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Margarite Baltruweit

    Carter's anthropological-like study of China stands apart in its genre, as it focuses expressly on the PEOPLE of China.

  8. 4 out of 5

    TurtleLiving

    I don't doubt that it's hard to fit this much material into one photography book, but I don't understand the author's process of picking what to include. On the one hand, it is about people, which makes sense given the book's title. On the other hand, it also includes urban images and landscapes, which also makes sense given that people's surroundings are also important. However, what the method to pick one over the other, the mix, the approach, is all unclear. A bit of introduction to the I don't doubt that it's hard to fit this much material into one photography book, but I don't understand the author's process of picking what to include. On the one hand, it is about people, which makes sense given the book's title. On the other hand, it also includes urban images and landscapes, which also makes sense given that people's surroundings are also important. However, what the method to pick one over the other, the mix, the approach, is all unclear. A bit of introduction to the material would have helped. To me, the pictures don't speak for themselves and I did not find the randomness helpful. I also didn't like the way the author referred to various types of people.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Isham Cook

    Based on the thumbnail image of the book's cover, even with the hot woman and the tasteful design, and knowing only it was some kind of photographic spread on China, I feared "coffee table book" - or worse, cheesy Chinese variety that would actually mar my coffee table, the sort you can find in the tourist bookshops with washed-out reproductions, incoherent English and sappy token displays of ethnic minorities dancing in their costumes. The actual book, once in my hands, is unlike any other book Based on the thumbnail image of the book's cover, even with the hot woman and the tasteful design, and knowing only it was some kind of photographic spread on China, I feared "coffee table book" - or worse, cheesy Chinese variety that would actually mar my coffee table, the sort you can find in the tourist bookshops with washed-out reproductions, incoherent English and sappy token displays of ethnic minorities dancing in their costumes. The actual book, once in my hands, is unlike any other book I've seen, including those in the photojournalism genre. It has a surprisingly small trim size of only 6 x 6 inches, but at 638 pages and over 2 inches thick and weighing almost 3 pounds, it's not a small book (and probably better suited to hardcover than its fragile paper binding). The weight is legitimated on the inside with the high-quality paper stock and what I'd guess approaches 1,000 high-resolution photo reproductions, capturing the author's two years of traveling to every province of China frequently under spartan and the roughest of conditions. Each province is prefaced with a map and a concisely written pitch, along with beautifully succinct, haiku-like captions for many of the photos, demonstrating that the author's skills as a photographer are matched by appropriate writing talent. The descriptions and the variety of photographic subjects - rural and urban landscapes, ordinary daily objects transfigured by the camera, and lots and lots of unforgettable people - seem to form a narrative that pulls one along the lengthy book, though most readers will probably prefer to dip into it at random than go through the whole thing at one shot. Regardless, it fulfills its evident purpose in being a comprehensive and enticing introduction to the country for people who haven't been to China, and equally interesting as well for those conversant with the country (I myself have lived in China for 13 years). Now for a more critical angle. The gold standard of "intrepid" or "hardcore" photojournalism books and one that will probably never be equaled is surely American Pictures: A Personal Journey Through the American Underclass by the Dane Jacob Holdt. Holdt arrived in the US in 1971 with $40 in his pocket and spent the next 5 years hitchhiking over 100,000 miles through 48 states and living with 350 families, taking 15,000 photos (selling his blood to buy film) and culling them down to 700 in his book, which are balanced by a substantial and moving narrative of his encounters with the many people he met, delving into their lives with a shocking empathy and intimacy (often sleeping with both women and men to dialogue at the deepest human level), and unflinchingly capturing with his lens the most horrific but sympathetic images of poverty and decrepitude. Personally, I would like to see the Chinese equivalent of Holdt's book. I suspect Tom Carter may even have witnessed some such darker scenarios or ruder encounters with people and made an understandable strategic decision not to include them, inasmuch as he seems to be positioning his book at the more "polite" end of the photojournalism spectrum, calibrated not to ruffle any feathers in China, where only the positive side of things tends to be presented. Thus he does not refer to himself in the first person but adopts the "objective" reportorial "the author," and when he almost dies during extreme weather on the 5,600-meter Drolma-La pass if it weren't for "a Ngari pilgrim woman" who "appeared as my own private Tibetan goddess of mercy, literally carrying me the remainder of the spiritual circuit," that's all we're told. I want more; I want to hear the dark side of travel and see the underbelly of the country, not just the picture-perfect promotional product. The author is certainly qualified to do this, and I invite him to consider these possibilities for another project.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Thrall

    When a Pixel Portrays a Hundred Thousand Words A picture painted a thousand words. That was before Tom Carter started taking them. Now, it seems, a pixel portrays a hundred thousand - and that's for those of us with limited imagination! I first came across Tom's work through his travel writing while doing some background research for EATING SMOKE - a book about the time I spent `roughing' it in Hong Kong and China. Not only did Tom's unrestrained generosity and supercharged positivity towards When a Pixel Portrays a Hundred Thousand Words A picture painted a thousand words. That was before Tom Carter started taking them. Now, it seems, a pixel portrays a hundred thousand - and that's for those of us with limited imagination! I first came across Tom's work through his travel writing while doing some background research for EATING SMOKE - a book about the time I spent `roughing' it in Hong Kong and China. Not only did Tom's unrestrained generosity and supercharged positivity towards people and place change the course of my life (in the first of many kindly returned e-mails), but upon purchasing CHINA: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE it became immediately apparent how this philanthropic aura extends to the subjects he captures through a lens. Tianjin to Tibet, Shanghai to Sichuan, Hong Kong to Henan, Tom takes you on a serendipitous journey - river deep, mountain high, citywide, countryside - to reveal the relationship between a vast, enigmatic and relatively unknown land and its incredibly diverse population. From the birthplace of Chinese civilisation on the banks of the Yellow River, to the birthplace of Shaolin kung fu on the sacred peak of Song Shan, to a proud mother soon to give birth in the Year of the Golden Pig . . . to the growth of the Christian Movement in Hong Kong, rice in the paddies of Nanjing and consumerism in Hangzhou . . . to the demise of traditional housing in Jinan, the death of a puppy in Siberia's frozen wastes and the resting places of honoured ancestors in Macao, his images usher you full-circle through all walks of life in all of the Middle Kingdom's thirty-three provinces. Tom's discerning eye combines the deliberate, the subtle, the fortuitous, the impromptu and the random to create a candid and affecting collage that juxtaposes young and old, shiny and crumbling, ancient and modern, humble and brash, happy and sad, and beauty with - the occasional - frank ugliness to provide an exceptional up-close-and-personal incite into a proud people whose individuality differs greatly and whose way of life stretches across a millennia, and shows a country so swept up in the paradox of global capitalism that, if not careful, it will look upon CHINA: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE in the not-too-distant future with nostalgia as the pre-eminent historical record. This book took me on a truly remarkable voyage; one that many will be delighted to complete in armchair comfort as they flick through its pages, awestruck by such an undertaking and grateful for its profundity, while others will reach for their backpacks, further inspired to set out and snatch a peek at this extraordinary country and meet some of its colourful inhabitants for themselves. My only criticism of Tom's contribution is when he says `The snapshots in this book are not meant to be works of art.' If this isn't Art, Tom . . . then I don't care to see what is.

  11. 4 out of 5

    James Lande

    Tom Carter's photography book CHINA: Portrait of a People (second printing 2013, Blacksmith Books) is a remarkable photo-essay of China today, broad in scope and comprehensive of subject. Even when contrasted with the work of his predecessors, discussed below, there is something more about this book: a remarkable depth of insight, understanding, and feeling that Carter (1973-), an indigent wanderer from San Francisco, acquired for a people whose language he knew only slightly at the time he took Tom Carter's photography book CHINA: Portrait of a People (second printing 2013, Blacksmith Books) is a remarkable photo-essay of China today, broad in scope and comprehensive of subject. Even when contrasted with the work of his predecessors, discussed below, there is something more about this book: a remarkable depth of insight, understanding, and feeling that Carter (1973-), an indigent wanderer from San Francisco, acquired for a people whose language he knew only slightly at the time he took the photos. Anyone able to overcome barriers to communication without knowing the language is an extraordinary person. Of the 100+ reviews on Amazon already posted, many readers regard Carter's Portrait as a surprising view into a "rapidly disappearing" China as the country dynamically thrusts forward into the new millennia. However, as the photos of John Thompson, Felice Beato, and other photographers of the 19th century are my point of departure, their work compared to Portrait illustrates substantially greater changes in China than any since 1949. Memory of more recent changes seems concentrated in metropolitan areas and along the coastlands rather than in the hinterland traipsed by Carter; perhaps such changes appear weighty because of a foreshortened time scale and accelerated development. It is unusual for a book to be a revelation for such a broad spectrum of readers as CHINA, Portrait of a People has been: besides travelers who have never been to China, and expat residents proud of their knowledge of the country yet unfamiliar with the greater landscape, the book has revealed to native Chinese much of their own country they knew little about. The book expands boundaries, reveals "undiscovered countries," and is likely to rouse from their indifference to China almost anyone who looks through these photos. Carter's Portrait shows that "China is not just one place, one people, but 33 distinct regions populated by 56 different ethnicities, each with their own languages, customs and lifestyles." We are told that the author backpacked 56,000 miles and visited over 200 cities and villages to gather material for this book, suffering privation, discomfort, and disease to complete this essay. The final result obviously made every step of his journey worthwhile. This review is continued at the Old China Books book blog - blog.oldchinabooks.com CHINA: Portrait of a People

  12. 5 out of 5

    A.K. Nicholas

    Tom Carter's visual journey through China allows us to vicariously drink in an immensely diverse culture. The unexpected can be found on almost any page; prostitution in macau, punk hair in Changsha, a beautiful baby in Gongtan, and the mentally ill in Luoyang. I learned a lot about China by looking at it's pages, the presence of Islam, street corner dentists pulling teeth, and other surprises. Normally I would call this a spoiler but there are just so many surprises in this book that I'm barely Tom Carter's visual journey through China allows us to vicariously drink in an immensely diverse culture. The unexpected can be found on almost any page; prostitution in macau, punk hair in Changsha, a beautiful baby in Gongtan, and the mentally ill in Luoyang. I learned a lot about China by looking at it's pages, the presence of Islam, street corner dentists pulling teeth, and other surprises. Normally I would call this a spoiler but there are just so many surprises in this book that I'm barely scratching the surface. There are also plenty of images you would expect: Tibetan monks, Chinese junks, and elderly weather beaten faces. This book is immense and though it is mostly photos, it takes a while to look at all 600 pages of people, villages, cities. I hardly have the vocabulary to describe the range and contrast of subject matter in this book; varied, diverse, encyclopedic, these words don't do it justice. With such a breadth of topics spanning the most populous country, there isn't much room for depth. Each region has a brief introduction and map, each photo has a short caption. But the book is a great leaping off place for anyone who wants to start learning about China through a visual smorgasbord. The images of people are competently captured in a mostly street documentary style. Carter gets close to his subject, and sometimes their poses are obvious reactions to being photographed, other times they seem oblivious to being recorded. Sometimes the photographer gets up high to give us a birds-eye view of an area of village. Other times he gets in close to his subjects to tell their story. Having made it through this enormous tome, I find myself picking it up repeatedly and thumbing through it. I keep finding images that I want to look at again, and there are so many that even memorable photos seem like I'm looking at them for the first time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    This is a book that, from the outset, looks unassuming and tidy, but as soon as you open the pages, it's like taking a long, beautiful walk through China. Tom Carter's photography is so evocative and personal that I immediately felt transported back to China, a place I've known for many years but never like this. The structure of the book, which leads you through various regions of China via brief captions and a range of photographsof people, architecture, scenery, etc.is the perfect way through This is a book that, from the outset, looks unassuming and tidy, but as soon as you open the pages, it's like taking a long, beautiful walk through China. Tom Carter's photography is so evocative and personal that I immediately felt transported back to China, a place I've known for many years but never like this. The structure of the book, which leads you through various regions of China via brief captions and a range of photographs—of people, architecture, scenery, etc.—is the perfect way through which to comprehend China visually. There is such a striking range of personal portraits, evidence of a photographer who clearly understands that China is not 'one thing' but is, as the title suggests, a colorful mosaic of peoples gathered in one ever-changing land.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kate Denis

    Coffee table books have become an outdated medium now that digital photography, smart phones, apps and the internet have taken over our society. And yet, there remain some books that simply must be seen on paper and held in your hands to be fully appreciated. Tom Carters China portraits are one such example. To view any of the images in this book independent of the collection would leave little impact on the reader. But taken as a whole, one can begin to grasp the vast mileage, endless Coffee table books have become an outdated medium now that digital photography, smart phones, apps and the internet have taken over our society. And yet, there remain some books that simply must be seen on paper and held in your hands to be fully appreciated. Tom Carter’s China portraits are one such example. To view any of the images in this book independent of the collection would leave little impact on the reader. But taken as a whole, one can begin to grasp the vast mileage, endless interactions and cultural challenges that Carter put himself through to obtain these photos. The pictures are not perfect, and some pro-photographers may sniff, but Carter’s work stands apart from any other photo book about China, or travel for that matter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    E Smyth

    Aside from literary standards such as Peter Hesslers River Town, I cant think of any better book to prepare travelers for China than this collection of photography. It surpasses all other China coffee table books in both scope and depth, and its distinctive cube size offers portability and easy viewing. The photos range from scenery shots to intense portraiture to candid street photography. The work was completed on the cusp of the digital revolution, so the image quality is not "perfect" and Aside from literary standards such as Peter Hessler’s River Town, I can’t think of any better book to prepare travelers for China than this collection of photography. It surpasses all other China coffee table books in both scope and depth, and its distinctive cube size offers portability and easy viewing. The photos range from scenery shots to intense portraiture to candid street photography. The work was completed on the cusp of the digital revolution, so the image quality is not "perfect" and nothing has been “photoshopped”, which makes the overall body of work all the more impressive.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sibila Vargas

    Gorgeous photos, all the more special because they were shot on a 4-megapixel point-and-shoot, taken during a groundbreaking journey by a true pioneer who relied on personal resolve instead of big budgets to get him through 2 years and 35,000-miles! I really dont know any other photographer who could accomplish what Mr. Carter has. For this reason alone this collection deserves to be showcased on every armchair travelers bookshelf. I must apologize to Mr. Carter for the 3 stars, but the small, Gorgeous photos, all the more special because they were shot on a 4-megapixel point-and-shoot, taken during a groundbreaking journey by a true pioneer who relied on personal resolve instead of big budgets to get him through 2 years and 35,000-miles! I really don’t know any other photographer who could accomplish what Mr. Carter has. For this reason alone this collection deserves to be showcased on every armchair traveler’s bookshelf. I must apologize to Mr. Carter for the 3 stars, but the small, cubed format wasn’t to my personal liking and did not do his photos justice. Note to the publisher: a gorgeous book such as this should be hardbound 1x12x10 inches.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    The photos are indispensible. The format of the book, however, leaves something to be desired. Not comfortable to peruse through as you often have to crack the spine just to read a bit of text and see the whole picture. Also, the author seems to have randomly chosen to comment on some of the photos, but not all. He also seems to have a fetish for Chinese/Asian women that comes through. Again, great pics, but the presentation could have been thought out better. It is also extremely hard to find The photos are indispensible. The format of the book, however, leaves something to be desired. Not comfortable to peruse through as you often have to crack the spine just to read a bit of text and see the whole picture. Also, the author seems to have randomly chosen to comment on some of the photos, but not all. He also seems to have a fetish for Chinese/Asian women that comes through. Again, great pics, but the presentation could have been thought out better. It is also extremely hard to find now apparently.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Chamberlain

    I first started travelling in China in the early 1980s when it started to open up after the Cultural Revolution. I travelled by train to Kunming, Sichuan and Mongolia, I cycled cross country through Fujian, Guangzhou and Hainan, sailed down the Yangtse (leaving just 3 days before the Tian An Man massacre). These photographs capture the fleeting present of an on-rushing China. What an extraordinary time these last 30 years have been. Tom Carter has captured an extraordinary amount. I hope to see I first started travelling in China in the early 1980s when it started to open up after the Cultural Revolution. I travelled by train to Kunming, Sichuan and Mongolia, I cycled cross country through Fujian, Guangzhou and Hainan, sailed down the Yangtse (leaving just 3 days before the Tian An Man massacre). These photographs capture the fleeting present of an on-rushing China. What an extraordinary time these last 30 years have been. Tom Carter has captured an extraordinary amount. I hope to see more. Anyone interested in China will love this book.(author: Jonathan Chamberlain)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Katelyn

    A talented amateur travel photographer takes us on a deluxe visual tour through the 33 provinces and autonomous regions of China, concentrating his lens on rural villages and developing cities, and the denizens therein caught in the middle of the war between progress and tradition. The collection as a whole is groundbreaking and worthy of praise, but might have benefitted by taking advantage of digital enhancement tools.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    wish the book was bigger. the pictures and writing kinda small. But great pictures and I am envious for such an adventure. I liked how each chapter had the area he was visiting highlighted against a total map of China so one could really see where he was going.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Neil Gaudet

    Whether you're a photographer looking for a great example of what travel photography should be or interested in China and its people, this book should live on your shelf. You'll never get a more intimate look in this type of book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    The images are beautiful, and the design of the book is excellent. To learn more, read an interview with Tom Carter on Words With Writers: http://wordswithwriters.com/2012/12/2...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Gordon

    A view of China in every corner and from every angle. Full of evocative and beautiful portraits, landscapes and glimpses of peoples lives.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Meursault

    Do you like China? Do you like portraits? Do you like people? Then you will love China: Portrait of a People. The best collection of photographs of Asian people's faces I've ever seen outside of a teenage Chinese girl's WeChat Moments feed. China: Portrait of a People is even better though as it just concentrates on the faces and isn't interrupted by any time-wasting photos of latte art or lunch. I would also like to point out that some people have described China: Portrait of a People as a Do you like China? Do you like portraits? Do you like people? Then you will love China: Portrait of a People. The best collection of photographs of Asian people's faces I've ever seen outside of a teenage Chinese girl's WeChat Moments feed. China: Portrait of a People is even better though as it just concentrates on the faces and isn't interrupted by any time-wasting photos of latte art or lunch. I would also like to point out that some people have described China: Portrait of a People as a coffee-table book. Measuring just slightly under two inches in height, I actually found China: Portrait of a People fairly useless as a coffee-table and at most I could only fit one reasonably medium-sized coffee cup upon its surface. It's much better as a book than a coffee-table (for which I recommend IKEA).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Lee Beck

    A stunning book which reveals the (often misunderstood) human diversity across the vast land we call "China." Highly recommended for those drawn to Chinese culture.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christian Kennedy

    Engrossing collection of photography taken by backpacker extraordinaire Tom Carter during a 2-year tramp across Chinas 33 provinces. Candid street life captures mixed in with intimate portraits and sweeping scenery. Each chapter is divided by province, beginning with Beijing in the east and concluding with Tibet in the far west. The photos are gritty and non-photoshopped a refreshing dose of realism in todays over-processed digital galleries. Engrossing collection of photography taken by backpacker extraordinaire Tom Carter during a 2-year tramp across China’s 33 provinces. Candid street life captures mixed in with intimate portraits and sweeping scenery. Each chapter is divided by province, beginning with Beijing in the east and concluding with Tibet in the far west. The photos are gritty and non-photoshopped – a refreshing dose of realism in today’s over-processed digital galleries.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marko Williamson

    China is a country of spectacular sites, many which have made the World Heritage list, as well as gleaming megalopolises that are the future of this world. Yet Tom Carter chooses to focus his lens on average ordinary people, impoverished villages and old city lanes that are about to be torn down. One must ask what Carters true motive is by showing this grubby side of Chinese culture? China is a country of spectacular sites, many which have made the World Heritage list, as well as gleaming megalopolises that are the future of this world. Yet Tom Carter chooses to focus his lens on average ordinary people, impoverished villages and old city lanes that are about to be torn down. One must ask what Carter’s true motive is by showing this grubby side of Chinese culture?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Silvia Lopez

    What I like about this book is how it never seems to end. Apparently there are over 800 snapshots, and despite being ordered by province and city, you really can just flip through any page at leisure, go backward or foreword, which I suppose is how the author conducted his trip across China.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann Madlina

    Infinite assortment of snapshots from Chinas 33 provinces. Carter is reportedly one of the few foreigners to have ever made this journey, and I have yet to see any other photo book about China match this one in terms of scope and depth. 5 well-deserved stars! Infinite assortment of snapshots from China’s 33 provinces. Carter is reportedly one of the few foreigners to have ever made this journey, and I have yet to see any other photo book about China match this one in terms of scope and depth. 5 well-deserved stars!

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Robbet

    Beautiful assortment of photos spanning the farthest regions of China occasionally marred by the photographers penchant for prostitutes, including a close-up of two karaoke hostesses kissing. Beautiful assortment of photos spanning the farthest regions of China occasionally marred by the photographer’s penchant for prostitutes, including a close-up of two karaoke “hostesses” kissing.

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