In Pingyao, China I was walking through a book store when I realized I was completely illiterate. Not only could I not understand the language, but I couldn’t even phonetically pronounce the intricate symbols of the Chinese language. Each symbol itself is almost a piece of art both in design and sometimes the symbols have some sort of artistic meaning. Yet all of it meant nothing to me. A cover full of text and a book full of mandarin meant as much as a 2 year olds scribble. Yet I knew there was a lot of depth and knowledge contained on every line. Then I picked up a book I understood. As I flipped through this book, the pages showed me deep meaning and revealed stories of life. I knew what the book was telling me and I felt connected to the characters. I learned from its content and contemplated intently on its purpose.
It was a photography book. The captions and title remained unintelligible to me, yet each photograph drew me in with such depth of activity that told me a thousand stories and caused me to ask a thousand questions. The persons face gave me an understanding of their mood, the environment gave me an idea of their life. It allowed me to share a moment both with the subject of the photo as well as the photographer who was standing there observing the scene. The photographs pulled me in and told me what was happening. The context became clear and the theme of the book revealed itself. I couldn’t speak a single word to the author or person in the photo, but I didn’t need to.
As I was finally able to understand a book in this book store, I realized the power photograph has and my purpose. My own tool of communication was shown useful in a context where I had no other way of knowing what was going on. In the same way, with my portraits of people all over the world, I may not be able to communicate with them, but I share a moment with them. Geographically, physically, socially in the same place at the same time. Then through my lens I am able to pause that moment, capture a piece of time, and then share it with you. That same photo that you see in my book or on my website can have the same exact impact on you as it has with someone in Turpan, or Osh, or Xi’an. You and they are both experiencing the same moment I shared with them in real time. They are experiencing and comparing our shared humanity and contrasting the differences in their culture and learning. This is why I travel the world and why I photograph the people. If you want to see these cultures and meet these people, please consider buying my book and helping support my travels! Buy here: http://facesofplacesphoto.com/merch