Top 10 – China Portraits Redux

I’ve been busy (again).  It seems I am forever trying to find enough time to tend to each of the irons I now have stuck into my little China bonfire.  With less than a week before the next semester begins I’ve been furiously trying to tie up loose ends before having to head back to the ‘real world”.  Of course my “real world” is not so real compared to most others, but I still seem to have managed to have a lot going on.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to start compiling the photos I want to be considered for the upcoming book.  I have come to the realize that choosing my “best” or “favorite” photographs is nearly impossible.  As I look through everything from the past couple of years, each image means something to me for any variety of reasons.  I liken it to choosing your favorite child.  How do you do that?   I recently read Carrie Marshall’s interview with the Taiwan based photographer Craig Ferguson, in which he said My favorite photo is one I haven’t taken yet. I can’t really say I have a favorite from my collection, because I like different ones for different reasons.” I feel much the same way, in fact I think that must surely be true for most photographers.

Anyway, I received a lot of valuable feedback when I posted the first ten portraits last week so I thought I would ask for opinions on a few more.  If you would like to offer your insight, just leave a note in the comments section or you can simply vote using the poll below .  I set up the poll this time to allow you to choose your top three selections, thought that might make it easier!

For more information about how any of the photos came to be, just click on the image and you’ll be taken to my Flickr account. I usually have some back-story there about each one.

Leading Man

Leading Man



38 PM

2:38 PM



Clown Face IV - Eye Contact

Eye Contact

Faces Of Luzhai II

Faces of Luzhai II

Takin' A Drag In Drag

Takin’ a Drag in Drag

Smile For The Camera

Smile for the Camera

Alice & Lisa - Children's Day

Alice & Lisa

Angels Live  In Nanning

Angels Live in Nanning

Again, you can vote for your top three selections here, or just leave a comment if that’s your preference.  Either way, I’ll be grateful.

I’ll be talking about some photoshop processing techniques later in the week and I’ll also begin a series of interviews with some amazing China based photographers.  My plan is to showcase a photographer each month.  The weather has changed to something more normal for this time of year, it was only 65F today and it’s been cloudy as well.  The rains will begin soon.  Oh joy.

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~ by Expatriate Games on February 17, 2009.

17 Responses to “Top 10 – China Portraits Redux”

  1. Stunning portrait work, Michael. I can’t believe the number of beauties you’ve got here. I’m always a little hesitant to take portraits. How do you get around the awkwardness of asking someone, while still managing to make them look natural? What kind of gear are you shooting with?

    • Thanks Carrie, I appreciate your comments. As for taking street portraits, I always try to “ease” into the environment. I often stand and look and chat with people for a while before even raising the camera. Usually, by then I am not asking so much as suggesting via eye contact and body language. To be honest I think it is easier here in China than it is in many other places. As you well know, most folks here are shocked when a foreigner speaks even a little Chinese so I think they are somewhat caught off guard when a rather large laowai waltzes into the neighborhood and asks about their day or what they’re doing. People here are every bit as curious about me as I am about them and that opens a lot of doors. A smile and friendly manner goes a long way. Of course it doesn’t always work but I seem to find a way to put people at ease more often than not.

      As for the equipment, I use 2 Canon DSLR’s with a variety of lenses. I think my favorite lenses for the street are the 70 – 200 f2.8 L IS and a 50mm lens that I recently broke. I need a new one. Please send money… or a 50mm lens.

  2. Great portraits. I wish I had more time to shoot. How many photos can you take in three weeks, twice a year, isn’t much fun.

    I know a great place in HK for lenses. Drop me a line.

    • Thanks Stevo, it’s got to be difficult for you, since you have a real job. Even when I am at school I only have to teach three days a week so that leaves some time to shoot most every week for me. I’ll take you up on the HK lens tip, line dropping to come.

  3. Actually I think “Angels” is best shot and, for me, there is big gap between this one and rest of them. Pure innocence!

  4. Holy smokes, Michael. That’s some amazing portrait work you’ve got. My personal favorite has got to be “Angels”, that very last one.

    Great job!

  5. As usual, Michael, each & every one of your portraits speaks for itself. Not easy to choose. However, your last one “Angels Live in Nanning” is beyond words. Cheers my friend.

  6. Thanks everyone, much appreciated. Looks like Faces, Drag, Smile and Angels are the leaders by consensus.

  7. Hi Michael,
    I just found out I’m on the right track with my next lens purchase. I’ve been looking at the 70 – 200 f2.8, and I’m just waiting for my next paycheck to get it. After seeing your photos, I think it’s going to be a sure thing.

  8. 2.38pm for me EG. I love both the simple title and the intense focus of the musician. The contrast between face, instrument and the use of b&w make it a standout..

    so what’s your favourite then?

    • Well, like I said, almost impossible to pick a “favorite” but I will say that 2:38 is a special photograph for me. It brings out a lot of emotion when I think about the circumstances under which it was taken.

  9. I love “Alice & Lisa!” The color is just so pretty! 🙂

    Very old world. And natural.

    And it’s not the majority vote. 🙂

  10. Wow, that was hard. I also voted for 2:38pm, but also Leading Man and Smile for the Camera. But they’re all fabulous.

  11. […] a diverse range of images with some very strong portrait work and excellent use of color. His Top 10 China portraits is a good place to start. Expect some great work in the future from […]

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