PHOTOGRAPHY – Tom Carter’s China: Exclusive Shots of HK & Macau 3


American Tom Carter has captured a superb overview of the Motherland and SARs in his first photography book, ‘China: Portrait of a People‘ available from local stores Bookazine, Dymocks and Paddyfields… Today, Hong Wrong exclusively shares some of his images from the HK, Macau and Guangdong sections…

Collated over 4 years travelling around China’s 33 provinces and autonomous regions, Carter’s book remains one of the few complete contemporary records of the country’s natural beauty and diversity. (Even the inescapable TST suit touts make a cameo!)…

As with most of the inspiring 800+ colour photos within, we bypass the usual tourist haunts and focus instead on the locals…

And whilst the photographer has a neutral stance, politics are evident throughout the 600+ annotated pages. The subject is unavoidable no matter where in the country you are…


As well as highlighting some of HK’s minorities, Carter touches on some of the more eccentric as well as seedier sides of the city. The shot below features the ‘ethnic hierarchical pricing system’ of Kowloon’s red light district…

…and if a picture ever spoke a thousand words, the shot below reflects HK’s worsening poverty gap, or is at least a statement about despair, hope and opportunity and how so many are locked out of the ‘Hong Kong dream’…

The comprehensive collection is a result of over 56,000km of backpacking…

An regular sight on Sundays, but not something you’ll see in the guidebooks…



What is most incredible about the collection is that the photos were taken with totally inappropriate and amateur piece of kit – a 4-megapixel Olympus C-4000. This in itself challenges the pretentious notion that a photographer-is-only-as-good-as-their-equipment (a fallacy happily peddled by Nikon)…

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…It may also be a clue as to how Carter (self-taught) managed to capture the country in such intimate and natural detail. Looking like a tourist, as opposed to a professional photographer, has clearly resulted in better access and increased chances of encouraging his subjects to relax. Furthermore, Carter uses very little post-processing.

The following shots are from Macau…



The following images were taken in our neighbouring province of Guangdong…

With distinct sections for each region, the format supports the idea that China – with its rich and colourful contrasts – is more of a ‘civilisation’ than a country.


“In China: Portrait of a People, Tom Carter shows us that there are actually dozens of Chinas. The American photojournalist spent two years travelling 35,000 miles through every province of China by bus, boat, train, mule, motorcycle, and on foot.” — Christian Science Monitor

It is fitting that the book is entitled ‘A Portrait’, as – traditionally – artists have been known to flatter their subjects somewhat, perhaps shaving a few pounds off here-and-there and hiding some of the ugly bits. The jury is out as to how accurate a snapshot of the country this book represents, as – like with all things China – it depends on your politics in the first place.

Carter does not shy away from featuring soot-faced miners, beggars and prostitutes, though he errs towards the positive and the beautiful. Some may believe this to be unrepresentative of a country beset with environmental concerns, corruption and ongoing poverty. Others, however, would be fair to argue that the spotlight is far too often placed upon the negative, especially by Westerners and sometimes quite heavy-handedly.

‘A Portrait’ makes a refreshing effort to redress the balance, whilst still giving a fair overview of what is a vast, complicated and very diverse land.

This visual journey is not your regular ‘coffee table book’, and the glowing reviews across the web reflect its uniqueness. China: Portrait of a People is available from  BookazineDymocks and Paddyfields in HK, on Amazon or at the Book Depository with free delivery to HK.

Click here to read an interview with Carter or here for some high-res shots of the mainland.



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