Why I Focus on China Photography

Why the Fascination and Photography Focus on China?

When I grew up, I was fascinated by China, Iceland, and India, I overhead family and friends stories from their backpacking days or wartime stories of my Grandfather stationed in Iceland. I remember stories of a missionary friend, talking about riding hard seater trains for 72 hours with cars with livestock in China. He recalled tribal villages, ancient towns, warm countryside people and the cormorant fishermen of the Li River. All reasons that contribute towards my China photography focus today.

I also had a Chinese childhood friend further fueled my childhood imagination, already containing James Bond’s version of Hong Kong. It’s funny how lots of subtle influences somehow form part of your future.

My First Trip to China

I first came to live in China (solo) back in 1995, I was 18 years old. I visited Guilin, the countryside of Hunan, and coastal island farming areas by Shanghai. Sadly I was not a photographer back then. It’s without thinking I’ve found myself trying to fondly capture the moments and feelings of that time. I think all this has a strong effect on my subject matter and direction today.

Focused on China Photography

I seek to photograph the China I visited in 1995, the China I always imagined. The last of those traditional ways, the last gems in ancient towns, dying traditions, and the last of rapidly assimilated tribes. I feel like a sort of treasure hunter, seeking out the last few places and people from a bygone era.

It’s funny to think… I probably have more elderly friends than any foreigner in China. More than a few tourists jaws have dropped when old village tribal lady or the donkey porter stops to greet me and chat. My childhood influences, young years in Hong Kong and China, and all the friendships I have with Chinese people that have time for me (the elderly) are huge influences on my desire to capture the elderly, tribes, traditionalists, and the China I fondly remember.

My images are definitely not reflective of the modern China of today. I want to capture glimpses into a bygone era.

If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.
– Jim Richardson

Today I have the pleasure of sharing this passion while leading photography tours, workshops and shooting with photographers from all over the world, from total beginners to some of the world’s most famous photographers, such as Trey Ratcliff, Jim Harmer, Rick Sammon and others…

My wife Mia and I also run photo tours for large photography clubs and other photo tour operators. Find out more about our Guilin photo tours here, and the rest and China and beyond at Gatsby Travel, such as my up-coming Xiapu photography tours