Having returned from 4 weeks backpacking China with a thousand photographs, a large Moleskine filled with a multitude of entries and anecdotes, the story of it all is only now being synthesized by my brain. I’ve attempted to put the pieces together before, but could never quite get my arms around them. No amount of effort could pull them together into something cohesive. Upon my return I swore I felt nothing. Exhaustion, jet lag, the weariness of the wear and tear of hard travel in a hard land, combined to send a perfectly targeted trajectory of flack to my brain, effectively deflecting the depth of impact upon my spirit this journey had made.
In truth I felt so much, so strongly, I was paralyzed by it. Until now. Until friends and family started asking me if I was going to ever share my experience. Yes, is the answer. Beginning with this post, I’ll be continuously documenting the trip until I’ve got it all out.
Chinese boy. Gansu Province.
I’ll start by sharing mostly photographs, easing into more of what I’ve written as we go along.
Doug Henderson, a renowned commercial photographer/graphic designer, instructed my first Photoshop course. His photography wrings emotion from my soul and we happen to share a similar view of photographing people. His perspective is eloquent, so I lifted it — hope he doesn’t mind. “I think the average person is beautiful. I don’t see any reason to comb a little kids hair or tell them to smile. I see no reason to try to make an old person look young again, or to make a working man look like an executive.” If I ever decide to be photographed, he’ll be the person I ask.
In my own words, I find faces moving.
Uigher Children. Kashgar, Xinjiang Province.
Uigher Girl. Taken while we gathered in her parent's yurt on the Pakistan border for Yak Dung Bread and Yak Milk Chai Tea. Xinjiang Province.
Woman of the house (yurt). Kyrgyzstan Woman.Xinjiang Province.
Ten Feet of Hair and really heavy earrings.
In a village called Huangluo, (not far from Guilin in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), for those of the Yao Nationality, long hair is a local tradition. All the Hongyao women can only cut their hair at 16 years old, symbolizing the fact she is an adult who can look for a lover. The hair cut off should not be thrown away, but is rather kept by the grandmother.
When the woman marries, the hair is made into an ornamental headdress and brought to the husband’s home as a souvenir.
Naxi Boy, Lijiang, Yunnan Province
This boy captured my fancy. You'll see more photos of him. His face and demeanor was of a shy sweetness of heart, hardened by the environment. He had all the vitality of youth but eyes that betrayed his age. Uigher, Xinjiang Province.
Leshan Grand Buddha. Sichuan Province.
We were the first Americans the proprietor had seen. His son came in from school and he asked him to play while we ate. The boy graciously agreed. The instrument is an Er Hu (thank you son for recalling that). Gansu Province.
Not all faces are human (Leshan Buddha) but all faces in a foreign land are foreign. Including our own.
Naxi Gentleman, Lijiang, Yunnan Province
Kyrgyzstan Man. Xinjiang Province.
Boys Will Be Boys
Naxi Orchestra Musician. Yunnan Province.
It was cold. He had the sniffles. Xinjiang Province.
Hands of an Artist. Naxi Orchestra. Lijiang.
Uigher boys, Kashgar, Silk Road in the Xinjiang Province.
Uigher woman. Kashgar.
I wanted to bring him home with me.