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Inside China Hardcover – October 16, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
This is not only one of the finest photographic essays on the subject of China that I've seen, it's one of the finest photographic collections on ANY subject I've seen. Moving & evocative images spanning decades fill this book.
If you want trite, Hallmark calendar-type photos, pass this one up. If you want a window to the heart, soul, land, history and peoples of China, look no further.
The book basically depicts the ugly, "inside" (thus the title, Inside China) parts of China: turmoil, conflict, contrast, hardship and misery. With so many spectacular photos that could have illustrated China's rise, the authors chose the most mundane images, at best. Especially troubling are the numerous pictures of "bargirls", massage girls, and prostitutes. Additionally, for every photo of progress, there is another one of poverty, displacement and worker exploitation. Maybe that's the authors' artistic way to express contrast. I must have missed the point entirely.
The quality of the photography is not up to par with National Geographic standards. Many night shots are grainy or blurry. The only ones I could really enjoy were the few landscapes at the beginning of the book.
If you are looking for a collection of spectacular photos of China and its people, look elsewhere. I was so angry when I finished the book that I considered giving it away, but even that would be too embarassing for me. I guess I will just have to throw it away, even if that means wasting the $35 it cost me.
Most of the subjects were captured in their work clothes, simply doing what they do everyday - living, surviving, and dreaming of a better life. These photos attest to the skills of the photographers, who have somehow made the camera invisible, bringing the reader that much closer to the subjects. In a nation that is struggling to find its own identity, the divide between the past and the future is often blurred, as represented by the symbolic blurring in the cover photo. What gives meaning and significance to the ordinary and the mundane are the shared humanity between the subjects and the onlooker and the hope that the future will bring a more beautiful day. Fittingly, the book ends with a hopeful photo in which the promises of the future and the relics of the past are intertwined. So, how does one get inside China? You leave all of your judgments and preconceptions at the border, and you look at the truth in the eye.
A few personal favorites:
- Reza's photo of a girl dancing in a circumcision ceremony in Xinjiang
- David Butow's photo of Nanjing Road on a rainy night
- David Butow's photo of a parade of Santas in Shanghai
- Kenneth Jarecke's photo of a pro-democracy hunger striker
- Benoit Aquin's photo of a crossroad in Xilinhot during a dust storm
- Mark Leong's photo of a teenage boy standing at the edge of a pool in a fat reduction hospital
- Mark Leong's photo of girls cleaning vegetables at a rural home
- Michael Wolf's photo of workers' living quarters