The portraits I took in China between September 2013 and March 2014 are predominantly of the elderly and the very young. As a “laowei” (foreigner), I was particularly struck by the faces of both the children, who will be carrying the impact of the country’s rapid change into the future, and the elders who remain the bearers of centuries-old history and tradition.
I have always considered connecting with people to be one of the central aspects of travel. At heart, instead of going to many of the “must see” travel sites, I would rather meander and observe, interact with, learn about, and photograph people I encounter.
I discovered early on that Chinese people rarely look someone in the eye. Apparently, steady eye contact is viewed as improper and can be regarded as an act of defiance. My attempts to establish a link in this manner were not always reciprocated. However, perhaps because I smile a lot I was often rewarded with eye contact and a smile in return. When I photograph, I approach a person because something about his/her face or demeanour strikes me as worth recording. I seem to have a facility for getting people to agree to let me take photographs of them. Despite the fact that I often get uncomfortably close to their faces, somehow they allow me into their personal space.
I met many wonderful individuals in China with whom I broke bread or had the opportunity for brief conversation (despite my fledgling Chinese). Asking permission to photograph them often allowed me to engage and connect with them. Even if we could not easily communicate, many still let their guard down. I tried to capture those moments.