The New China


posted on 12th of march, 2008

The world prepares to visit China in great numbers for the 2008 Olympics. Many visitors may be surprised at the extent of China’s expansion. According to Businessweek, “China will soon be home to the world's largest airport, the world's first fully sustainable city, and the world's highest outdoor observation deck, to name just a few of its innovative architectural feats”.


Interest in this booming economic marvel will extend long after the Olympic torch is extinguished as will demand for images of the ‘new China’. Those who have an opportunity to visit China for the games, for business or as tourists should photograph more than just the ‘typical’ sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

Modern Chinese public and business buildings recently completed or still under construction are among some of the most amazing in the world. Scope out locations that will allow shooting the full measure of the height and shapes of these new structures. Go for the magic light times of early morning and late afternoon to add interest to the architecture or as the lights come on later at dusk.


I’m not suggesting that photographers neglect 'typical' shots such as the Great Wall, the theater and other images that Westerners associate with China. Those subjects are interesting and important to document but images of the new China are not as common.
More than ever, China is a country of contrasts. Position yourself to include both old and modern structures in the same image. A list of not to miss modern Chinese buildings is found here



Use care when you include Chinese characters in your images if you don’t read Chinese. It’s best to ask before you end up with a beautiful image that shows a sign saying, “This way to the bathrooms” or something else inappropriate. I meticulously copied a sign on a street scene in Quelin in one of my pastel drawings only to be told by a Chinese friend that I had made a drawing of bathroom signage. Beware of signage in any language that you can’t understand…just as you must be careful in copying keywords from other images in any language that you do not read.

The dark side of China’s growth is its ecological and environmental challenges. Shots showing pollution are newsworthy as are any that touch on the subject of human rights.




Dreamstime has many talented photographers living in China. We look to you to supply us with many fantastic images documenting modern life in China such as the many new automobile drivers, construction sites, modern factory life and the rise of the middle class shopper. Business people against a background of modern buildings such as seen in the image of the couple shaking hands against the skyline of ChengDu is a good example.

There is great curiosity in the West concerning the evolution of society in China over the past decade. Chinese photographers should document their daily lives, their friends and family, the streets they travel everyday, their day at work as well as the events they attend.

I’m not suggesting that photographers neglect the ‘typical [‘ shots such as the Great Wall, the theater and other images that Westerners associate with China. Those subjects are interesting and important to document but images of the 'New China' are not as common.

Edward Burtynsky has created incredible images of Chinese factory workers seen on his web site (Go to ‘China’ the last entry on the left on his homepage). If you click on the larger images, you will get a full screen view, the only way to get the full impact of the images.

Comments (28)

Posted by Michael29 on September 08, 2008
Wo hen xihuan zhongguo Means I like China. I was over in China in April going to go back next year. I am thinking of moving there as well. Please before you hear of all things from china I say go there and you will be shocked how different it is to what people say about it.
Posted by Orchidpoet on August 14, 2008
I may visit Shanghai in September or October, anyone cares to meet for coffee or shoot together? If you like, my email is orchidpoet@gmail.com. Please use Shanghai as the subject to avoid mistaken deletion.
Posted by Farang on August 11, 2008
Amen Holgs,

If you look at China today alot has changed over the years.
The first time i was in china is about twenty years ago, if you see how much has changed over the last two decades you won't believe your eyes.
I work in Suzhou right now about one and a half hours drive from Shanghai and if you see the development of China here you would be amazed.
I love China and it's people and it is a great place to work and live.
People here are very friendly and hardworking and have a great sense of humor.
It is a shame that the western press is always looking for the negative aspects in the Chinese society and don't have an eye for all the progress that has been made over the last couple of decades.
This development will continue at full speed, ofcourse there are some problems but if you look at the size of the country and the diversity of it's people that is to be expected.
I am confident that China will open up even more over the coming...(More)
Posted by Orchidpoet on August 08, 2008
Holgs, it's great to read a non-Chinese's first hand observations about China. Thanks for sharing.

Hope eveyone enjoys the Olympics.
Posted by Holgs on August 07, 2008
I think its difficult to appreciate the challenges facing China if all you have to go on is the news reports from CNN or even Europe. The development that is going on there is on a scale that has never been seen before. While there is also obviously a lot of smog and pollution, the real question will be whether it is still there when the building activity slows down, which at some point it must. From my travels through China, I've seen signs that there will be a greater reliance on Public transport and renewable energies than in many Western countries to date. While it is easy to jump on the human rights bandwagon, there are not many countries that can stand up and moralise - while we should all strive to improve human rights and opportunity, it is dangerous to start pointing fingers without looking in our own backyards first.
Posted by Milliardideas on August 07, 2008
As time goes by,Everything will be better!
Posted by Xuujie on April 21, 2008
I think with the development and opening of China, more people will get to know this beautiful country and understand people living here. It will not be the "Forbidden kingdom" in western people's eyes :)
Posted by Fjord on April 12, 2008
I love China and the most of Chinese believe that China will become better and better.
Posted by Pengdevey on April 05, 2008
Every country has positive & negative elements.Yes,it's very correct.In any event , I love my country.Because I'm a chinese.
Posted by Kuteng on April 04, 2008
come to my site,check my pics
i got 5pics online today,i m so happy
i m a fresh man here.
thank you all.
i m Chinese,i love China.
Beijin is always our beautiful city of our country.
Posted by Yunxiang987 on March 23, 2008
i am shame of Peking University
Posted by Chinaphoto163 on March 23, 2008
Yunxiang987:Peking=Bejing, Peking University is still using Peking。 There is no need to feel shame of that or so sensitve.:)
Posted by Sidayong on March 23, 2008
Yes, pollutions in China are serious. But if you compare that with the discharged CO2 by USA,,,,
Posted by Yunxiang987 on March 22, 2008
Thax to Ellen. You haove give us good suggestions.

Chinaphoto163: Beijing, not Peking. It is a shame to use the old spelling.
Paulus:Indeed China's growth is at the expense of those countries who pay their workers a minimum wage...it is competition. is that wrong? i would also say that US's growth is at the expense of those countries who pay their workers a minimum wage... by the way, google is very well in China.

Dnf-style: Please go to China and take a look by yourself.
Posted by Nataliesusu on March 18, 2008
more and more chinese mumbers here, so exciting!
Posted by Lieska on March 17, 2008
Good to see the nice article, and photos.
Always willing to see the view of a foreigner.
Hope to shoot the change of the country.
Hate protrait copyright!
Posted by Eprom on March 15, 2008
Every country has positive & negative elements. it is better to say yes or no, when you have been in China, when you understand the history of China, when you get enough informations. :)
Posted by Orchidpoet on March 14, 2008
Well said, Ellen.

Chinese as well as people in other developing countries have the same rights to economic development as people in more developed western countries which have achieved its economic growth and contributed to its share of global pollution.

As photographers, we can try our best to document history, good and bad, and understand our subjects in an objective and unbiased way.
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 14, 2008
No one country is free of negative sides to its life or politics. I mention trying to document both human rights issues and the challenge facing China in dealing with its impact on the environment above in the blog. An article on the new worker's rights law that went into effect in Jan in China .http://www.newsweek.com/id/111027
Posted by Paulus on March 13, 2008
Indeed China's growth is at the expense of those countries who pay their workers a minimum wage...by taking these photographs of the ninth wonders of the world you are publicising the achievements of those who have castrated even Google.

But you should certainly take your pictures now because it won't be long before China's economic standing begins to affect its influence on the world stage..and you will find you're only able to take pictures of the 'positive' elements of New China.

...and if you think that politics has no place in photography, you need to take a look at the work of the Magnum photographers.
Posted by Dnf-style on March 13, 2008
Please also stay a little critic as China is also the worlds biggest polluter having no ear for what they are doing to our earth. No ear since making profit out of low paid workers is more important. If they go on the will become the richest en most innovative country in ......... a world that does not exist anymore. So please also ask yourself at the cost of what all this developement is happening. And then I am being silent about the civil rights policy of this great country.
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 13, 2008
....Forever, the MR is really a trouble for photographer, because it's difficult to get a model realease when you shot a stranger. How can we solve such problem?
I understand that it is sometimes very uncomfortable to ask someone to sign a legal looking document when you approach them on the street or in a public place. That is why it is easier sometimes to ask your friends and family to be your models. And ask them to ask others that they may know on your behalf. Alternatively depending on your personality, if you aren't shy, you can explain to strangers that you will send them a photo in exchange for signing the release. Then make certain that you do!
Posted by Zhuanghua on March 13, 2008
Thanks, Boughn!As you say:"Position yourself to include both old and modern structures in the same image."It's a good subject! I'll try my best to submit more good photos reflecting new China and Chinese!
Forever, the MR is really a trouble for photographer, because it's difficult to get a model realease when you shot a stranger. How can we solve such problem?
Posted by Carrydream on March 13, 2008
As you wish and thank you again.^_^
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 13, 2008
Carrydream: I wanted to use your photo of the girl [imgl]4522968[/imgl]on the bridge that you recently posted.She is a wonderful model and you have captured her happiness perfectly! I didn't use the image because I needed more buildings...but I will someday soon have an opportunity to use that image.
Posted by Chinaphoto163 on March 12, 2008
Welcome to China, welcome to Peking, welcome to Chengdu., and I am in Chengdu now. It's really a beautiful city where you can have a very comfortable life. China is a developing country, it is really facing many challenges and opportunities, but it will be better and better.
Posted by Carrydream on March 12, 2008
"The dark side of China’s growth is its ecological and environmental challenges."
As a Chinese ,THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING! We are proud of our contry!
Posted by Linqong on March 12, 2008
Thank you, Ellen.

Thanks you for proposing such a good suggestion for our Chinese cameramans. Let us find clearer goal and direction.



Comments (28)

This article has been read 2877 times. 2 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Zhiwei Zhou, Hanhanpeggy, Jiang Daohua, Yi Li, Weimin Zhang, Sanches1980.

About me

I have written a about microstock photography released in 2010. I was the Director of Content at Dreamstime for two years ending in Feb, 2009. You can order my book from amazon via my website at www.ellenboughn.com/blog.

(Ellenboughn)
Bainbridge Island, US

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