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China: Portrait of a People Paperback – July 16, 2010
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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
Top customer reviews
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Just to clarify - I have been self-publishing books for twenty-nine years. Because, in the past, I looked at lithographs, rubbed paper stock between my fingers, checked how glossy the paper was, and related tasks, I keep telling myself how far Print-on-Demand has come, how awesome all of this is, and - it is.
But, then - there are the moments, deja-vu moments, reminding us why we fell in love with books in the first place long before POD and ebooks were invented.
The parcel arrived; it was thick and heavy.
My first thought was, "OMG, what did I order?"
I opened it and there was - a six by six inches book, two inches thick filled with amazing pictures. I just gasped. The book is designed thoughtfully. The carton dust cover hides a book cover that shows more than one hundred tiny images of "the people of China," all different, a puzzle that makes up China. It is sectioned into 5 books: North, East, South, West and Central China. Each section is featured its districts: Beijing, Tianjin, Liaoning, etc...
I traveled China three times, 1987 (when I crossed the Chinese border by Transsiberian Railway on New Year's Eve), 1988, and 1989.
Even though I spent weeks in China and
• traveled remote Tibet before the railway was built,
• saw Harbin in the winter, at minus 35F,
• bicycled to the Golden Temple in KunMing, on a 5-bicycle lane highway,
• gambled in Macao,
• still landed at Kai Tak, and
• wanted to move to Hong-Kong when it was still British,
I always felt that I merely scratched the surface of this enormous world called China.
Author Tom Carter did it. He spent four years in China and saw it all. His photographs tell the story. Carter goes beyond the tourist pictures, he shows the exhausted subway passenger resting on a bag on the station's floor (page 19), an "empty Great Wall (Miyun) which I also had the pleasure to experience, hot shot night clubs in Beijing that did not exist when I visited there, a person trying to protect his face from the freezing cold in the worst storm in 56 years (Shenyang), Manchurian life, an elderly man teaching his son to ride a bicycle (which used the main transportation of Chinese people when I visited there), and so much more.
Carter captured the moments exactly like I experienced them. E.g. Picture Dongying (p.116 but no page number ) shows a restaurant setting with the waitress inspecting a table with dozens and dozens of tiny plates with bites of something, because in China dinners at restaurants are culinary expeditions. P. 118 (also Dongying) shows a man pushing a bicycle with a load of hay. Exactly like I experienced it.
Extremely fascinating - p 212 Yuchanglou - a 700-year old tulou community.
I never even knew of their existence.
Which describes what this book is all about. It means discovering that China is a puzzle with millions of pieces that make a fascinating world.
Tom Carter, here is my best picture, taken on January 8th, 1987. The moment lasted less than a minute. The rising morning sun illuminated the Potala; behind it is a dark cloud that forecasts changes. The Potala looks as if it's on fire. (Please note this picture is 30 years old.)
Love the book - highly recommended,
5 stars, Gisela Hausmann, author & blogger
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