China: Portrait of a People by Tom Carter


To know a country is to know its people. In his new book China: Portrait of a People, photojournalist Tom Carter gives the reader a voyeuristic peek into the lives of a billion people. Arriving from San Francisco in early 2004, Carter spent a year in a town near the Yellow River, before moving to Beijing. Feeling unsettled, and in search of a more meaningful connection with the country in which he was living, he embarked upon a journey that would take him all around China, from Hohhot to Hong Kong, Kashgar to Kunming.

Despite travelling on a limited budget, he successfully traversed the nation, visiting all 33 provinces, and meeting members of the 56 indigenous ethnic groups that make up our 1.3 billion population – plus a few more stragglers along the way. The images veer between the light-hearted (laughing children playing on a sand dune in Gansu), titillating (a pair of female KTV hostesses in Shandong lean in for a kiss), appalling (a mentally ill girl lies in the middle of the road as cars just pass her by), and thought provoking (the worn and sunburned face of a destitute old Tibetan lady). But there is a constant – the peering visages of all ethnicities, of all China.

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, Portrait of a People is a very good place to start peeling back the layers. Simon Ostheimer


2 Comments Add your comment

  • My wife and I were lucky to see Tom's book before it came out. We have traveled often to China. My wife was born in Shanghai and grew up during the Cultural Revolution. She left China for the United States when she was twenty-eight. Tom has captured the heart and soul of China.

    Posted by Llloyd Lofthouse on November 27, 2008 at 08:48 AM
  • If you really turn on the page, you will find out everything in this book is so stunning,really amazing to see all of chinese person, from poor to rich, young to old, Han to Minority. It's good experience to read it, enjoy it and acknowledge it. Reading by eyes,feeling with heart, that's kind of saint pilgrim:) 翻开这本书,你会发现书中的每张图片都是如此的有震撼力,如此的真实。从贫穷到富有,从年轻到年老,从汉族到各少数民族,读懂它,享受它,不一样的体验之旅。通过我们的眼睛用心去体会,经历一次心灵的朝圣之旅。

    Posted by 铃儿响叮当 on November 28, 2008 at 10:17 PM

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