China Travel blog > A look across the Middle Kingdom with Jonah Kessel

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In Inner Mongolia, farmers trek across what was grassland just 50 years ago. China has launched major anti-desertification initiatives in such regions in recent years.

Jonah Kessel is a man who sports many hats, all worn at a particularly creative angle. An interactive art director, visual journalist and "nomadically curious" photographer who has traveled all over, he's  currently based in Beijing working as Creative Director for China Daily. He writes of himself that he's "always wants to know what's on the other side of the mountain, regardless of which side he's on" and it's that unerring curiosity to discover, create and inspire that has made his blog regular reading over here at China Travel. Below, Jonah takes some time out to talk us through a few of his favorite photographic moments drawn from the past year. >>>

In 2010 (so far), I've saved around 20,000 photos taken in China. This makes it a difficult task to pick five or ten of my favorite photos from this year—and really, it depends which day you ask me and what color the sky is that day.

Often times I find my favorite photos, aren't necessarily the best ones. Although I make a living with images, the stories behind the images I take, are the stories that make up the building blocks of my life story.

In this China Through My Lens I'm happy to share with you some of the frames that have been most memorable to me this year. They aren't necessarily the best photographs I've taken, but most have some funny stories behind them that I will remember long after the better photographs hit an archived hard drive. Each photo will link back to a blog entry or photo essay, that will help explain some context past the captions here. A couple, even have videos and multimedia features that accompany them.

Without any further ado—here are ten of my favorite moments from 2010.

Tibetan Cloudscape

TIBET AUTONOMOUS REGION
Dark rain clouds form on the arid Tibetan Plateau, near Mount Everest. This is from a trip through the Tibetan Plateau I took this summer, and is part of a larger series that begins here. This dirt access road toward Mount Everest base camp takes about 4-hours (8-hours return) with a 4-wheel drive vehicle from the Friendship Highway.

In Your Face

BEIJING MUNICIPALITY
A portrait of Du Xiaoshan, a poverty alleviation researcher for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who founded Funding the Poor Cooperative (FPC) in 1993. This was shot for a China Daily article, and is also part of a larger photo essay I'm working on visualizing the dichotomous nature of China.

Anhui Exercise Time

ANHUI PROVINCE
After weeks of rain, students at Yangshan Elementary School perform their morning exercises outside on their dirt basketball court in Yangshan Village, Anhui Province. NGO Shanghai Roots & Shoots brings volunteers to the impoverished village every summer to help teach children and build infrastructure. Learn more about the Anhui Poverty Alleviation Project (and see the cute kids do their morning exercise) in a video here.

The Friendship Highway

TIBET AUTONOMOUS REGION
Thick fog and rain settle in on the Friendship Highway on the shelf of the Great Himalayas. The legendary road drops thousands of meters from the Tibetan Plateau into the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. This is one of the most dramatic roads I have ever been on. For those familiar with other epic drives in the United States—Highway 1, the "Million Dollar Highway"/U.S. Route 550, U.S. Route 30 in Maui, the Oregon Coast., or U.S. Route 395 (Nevada's Extraterrestrial Highway—this road puts them to shame. More on this Tibet car voyage from Lhasa to Nepal here.

China's Growing Sands

INNER MONGOLIA AUTONOMOUS REGION
Mongolian farmer Jiruga protects herself from blowing sand while planting trees near Gaotou in Inner Mongolia. Her land, once in the heart of Inner Mongolia’s grasslands, is now largely desert. This shot is part of a larger mixed media video project documenting desertification in China. However, when I see the picture, it is a reminder to me to never get into a drinking match with Mongolian farmers.

Vimicro CEO

BEIJING MUNICIPALITY
Entrepreneur John Deng believes R&D is the key to Chinese companies' success in the global arena. I'm always surprised when I can get a coporate CEO to get a little creative. Most are terrified of the idea; however, the CEO of Vimicro had no problem with it. This photo has also become part of a larger collection of portraits here.

Gotham City of China: Tianjin?

TIANJIN MUNICIPALITY
Heavy fog in Tianjin makes a comic book visage over the buildings outside the Italian District. If you haven't guessed it by now, I like taking pictures of fog. This shot was part of a series of images taken to help promote the World Economic Forum. More from Tianjin here.

Yao Ming

BEIJING MUNICIPALITY
NBA star and China icon Yao Ming poses for a portrait before a charity game. This is only funny, once you realize I am 5"5 and Yao Ming is 7"6. I blogged about the experience and Chinese media picked it up with the headline "Short man challenged by photographing Chinese giant," which I still find amusing. Read about that shoot here.

The Bund

SHANGHAI MUNICPALITY
Lights from Shanghai's historic Bund area reflect in all directions before the start of the Shanghai World Expo. This is about two days before the Expo began, and its probably the least amount of people that have been on the Bund since. More night exposures from Shanghai's cityscape here.

Inner Mongolia

INNER MONGOLIA AUTONOMOUS REGION
A group of farmers begins their long walk home through sand in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. The desert they cross was a thriving grassland ecosystem less than 50 years ago. Desertification and shifting sands from over-farming, grazing and drought have caused China's deserts to grow at an average rate of 2500 square miles a year. See video documenting desertification in China here.

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Editor's Note: China Through My Lens is a regular photo series featuring the work of photographers and avid travelers living in China. Photographers are asked to share five to ten of their favorite photographs of China with short explanations of each photo. The idea is to share each individual's unique focus and view of China moments they were able to capture through their camera lenses. Contact us if you would like to show China through your lens. Much thanks to Jonah Kessel for taking part in the series.

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  1. Someone thinks this story is fantastic...

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report - a collection of China's best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it....

    By Hao Hao Report September 28,2010 11:37 AM

  2. Amazing photos. I especially like "morning exercises." Your view of the drive thru the Himalaya looks typically cloudy; in fact, on my trip I missed the most dramatic part because we couldn't see anything thru the fog!

    By Roger December 14,2010 09:23 AM

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