When a Pixel Portrays a Hundred Thousand Words

Here’s my amazon review for Tom Carter’s incredible photo book on China

CHINA: Portrait of a PeopleWhen 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.

Click this link for the original article: CHINA: Portrait of a People

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