China photographer & author Tom Carter

An inveterate vagrant who flirts with pictures and words, Tom Carter spent 2 straight years backpacking a groundbreaking 35,000 miles across all 33 Chinese provinces, and was named “one of China's foremost explorers” by The World of Chinese magazine. His first book CHINA: Portrait of a People has been hailed as the most comprehensive book of photography on modern China ever published by a single author. He is also the editor of Unsavory Elements, an anthology about foreign expats in China. Tom was born and raised in the City of San Francisco, graduated with a degree in Political Science from the American University in Washington, D.C. and has called China home since 2004.

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CHINA: Portrait of a People

From the subtropical jungles of Yunnan to the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang; across the scalding deserts of Xinjiang and beneath Hong Kong’s neon blur. Tramping through China by train, bus, boat, motorcycle, mule or hitching on the back of anything that moved. On a budget so scant that he drew sympathetic stares from peasants. Backpacking photographer Tom Carter somehow succeeded in circumnavigating over 35,000 miles (56,000 kilometers) across all 33 provinces in China during a 2-year period, the first foreigner on record ever to do so.

What Carter found along the way, and what his photographs ultimately reveal, is that China is not just one place one people, but 33 distinct geographical regions populated by 56 different ethnicities, each with their own languages, customs and lifestyles.

Despite increased tourism and surging foreign investment, the cultural distances between China and the West remain as vast as the oceans that separate them. Carter’s book, CHINA: Portrait of a People, was published as a means to visually introduce China to the world by providing a glimpse into the daily lives of the ordinary people who don’t make international headlines yet whom are invariably the heart and soul of this country.

Purchase CHINA: Portrait of a People on Amazon or direct from Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong


Unsavory Elements is an unprecedented anthology of 28 new, original, true stories from some of the most celebrated foreign writers that have lived in China in modern times. Westerners are flocking to China in increasing numbers to chase their dreams even as Chinese emigrants seek their own dreams abroad, and life as an outsider in China has many sides to it - weird, fascinating and appalling... We asked authors who have lived in China for a significant period to tell us a story of their experiences, and these contributions resulted. Edited by Tom Carter, this anthology falls under the genre of travel writing, yet travel is just the beginning of the adventure here.

Purchase UNSAVORY ELEMENTS on Amazon or direct from Earnshaw Books, Shanghai

All images © 2004-20013 Tom Carter. All Rights Reserved.